Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chennai's roads: what is the Corporation doing?

Whatever is happening to the roads in Chennai? It’s getting worse by the day, a nightmare driving on them. It is the same story year after year once the monsoon sets in. There are a few days of rain and that is enough to render the roads unfit for travel. The top coating (bitumen, is it?) peels off ever so easily, there are potholes everywhere and this time, there are craters as well. The reason: several roads have been dug up and left as they are – either with deep pits or with sand and loose gravel casually dumped over them to temporarily facilitate travel. What really is the Chennai Corporation doing? It is all right for the mayor and the commissioner to be present at inaugurations and launch various projects, wade through water when there is rain to inspect areas that are flooded, but about the roads? Don’t they or other corporation officials ever travel on the city roads, have they never seen the state of the roads or do they just not want to do anything?

Earlier this week, a schoolboy got run over by a monster of a commercial vehicle – his schoolbag had apparently got entangled in the vehicle. How such a vehicle was allowed to ply on a congested lane off Arcot Road during peak morning rush hour is a question no official or policeman has been to answer satisfactorily to the media. Not only did the boy die a horrendous death, yesterday his father, only 52 or so, a heart patient, died, leaving the wife and mother to face the world alone. What a tragedy! What is her state of mind, I even dread to imagine.

With the roads in such a bad condition as they are (please drive on Anna Main Road, the inside streets in KK Nagar, Govindan Road in Mambalam to get a flavour of what I am talking about), there cannot be a better recipe for accidents. How did the schoolboy’s bag get entangled in the vehicle that ran over him? It might have been possible that he lost his balance over a pit or pothole or crater. After all, who in the media bothers to talk to eyewitnesses or visit the spot of accident and get inputs from the hawker or shopkeeper? Neighbourhood newspapers have been repeatedly highlighting the terrible state of roads. Pillar Talk, for instance, has been almost waging a war against officialdom, with pictures of the dug-up portions on Anna Main Road near the MGR Nagar bus stop, which has remained thus for years. And to think that KK Nagar is named after the chief minister of Tamil Nadu! What a shame!

I have not driven much after the rains in other parts of Chennai, but I am sure the same potholes and craters and rough edges with the bitumen all gone are there everywhere. Wonder how north Chennai must be like!

All this raises the big question: Why do citizens have to pay taxes (house tax, water tax, income tax, sales tax…) when basic infrastructure is lacking? Is it so difficult for the state government to provide decent roads?

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