The monsoon is officially behind us, but wealthy Chennai's city managers keep us bumping along many bad roads

The monsoon is officially over, but the effects of the rains are still felt. Many city roads are potholed, pitted, scarred and uneven. The Corporation of Chennai seems not to believe in the adage, “small repairs in time, prevent many a major loss.”

Loss is such a small word, but it can hide hide terrible tragedies. Such as the woman who was thrown off a two-wheeler on Mandaiveli - Foreshore Estate Main Road and run over by an engineering college bus, while her child escaped. The cause of the accident, according to media reports, was a protruding manhole cover. The bus driver was promptly arrested, but the people in authority who could not care for protruding manhole covers do not pay. Our response to such incidents rarely goes to the cause, which is the negligence of the civic machinery causing death and disability.

What responsibility do our civic agencies have? They cause road accidents by neglecting to repair roads promptly. Under the law, they would be culpable because they have adequate knowledge about the risks posed by dangerous structures solely under their control. In addition, our Police is equally liable for not reporting these problem points as part of their daily patrols, and ensuring their rectification. The evidence is everywhere: in Nungambakkam, Kodambakkam, T.Nagar, Vadapalani, to name a few that I have seen. (If you have any specific places to mention, do wite in.)

At the broader economic level, the failure of our civic machinery is causing us direct financial losses. Our vehicles wear out faster, motorists are forced to dangerously weave along roads to avoid terrible patches and even our bus system suffers a great loss annually in the form of worn-out tyres, broken suspensions and so on.

The usual refrain from the top civic managers is that the roads have be ‘re-laid’ using the tender process. Often the government's high budgets are for road works on the city periphery, which are in a bad state already, as this report highlights. Sometimes, there is talk of 'world class' roads that are on the anvil, whatever that means. Then there is the big theme about plastic reinforced roads, which periodically crops up.

All this is simply a device to buy time and inflate the costs of annual repairs. We should be asking, is the tendering process invoked when roads leading to VIP function venues are repaired overnight? Who sanctions those repairs, and under what norms?

The fact remains that the zonal heads of the Corporation of Chennai are empowered to act in the public interest and conduct emergency repairs in their jurisdictions. They have to merely requisition hot mix, and carry out repairs that meet technical specifications. But they rarely do.

It is fair to assume that this sort of “stitch in time” psychology is inconvenient, because that will make it unnecessary to carry out expensive repairs each year, at great cost to the exchequer but making the lobby of contractors happy.

So rather than allowing more women to fall off two-wheelers and die, and leaving children orphaned, simply because our roads are bad, our civic managers should get down to their job.