Delhi takes the cratered road to traffic snarls and stress

August 20th, 2008 - 2:25 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 20 (IANS) Anger, angst and absolute helplessness… those are the everyday negatives for millions of people who spend hours traversing the moonscape that are the potholed roads in the Indian capital and its suburbs post-rains.A young teen was reduced to tears as she spent six hours going from her school in Gurgaon to her south Delhi home, an executive missed his flight to Hyderabad, another missed an important appointment, a sister couldn’t make the trip home for rakhi, a patient had to be given emergency painkillers in the ambulance itself as he cried out in agony when the vehicle jerked with the many craters on the road.

The stories are endless and only too frequent in a city where a good monsoon has meant waterlogging and roads being stripped off tar and bitumen, leaving gaping holes and stony surfaces that jar with every movement - even in a luxury car.

And massive, endless traffic jams adding to stress levels and road rage incidents.

“We might claim that India is an economic stronghold, an IT giant and now a nuclear power, but the fact remains we do not have basic infrastructure. If the situation is so in Delhi what is the condition of our rural villages?” asked Amit Lathwal, a doctor who took nearly five hours to travel about 25 km from his north Delhi hospital to reach his clinic.

Commenting on the many claims that superpower India’s capital was set to be called a world-class city at par with Beijing or Singapore, he added in a matter of fact tone: “Let’s be practical and not compare our city with Beijing.”

“We are at least 50 years behind Beijing,” said a senior journalist who has just returned from the Olympics. “Where is the road in Delhi - they are full of potholes and craters, and connecting them are patches of uneven roads.”

“When I come home in a rickshaw, I feel I am on a roller coaster ride. The craters and potholes stare at you for months together and get filled up with water when it rains. It is so dangerous,” fumed Ayesha Duggal, a resident of the upscale Kingsway Camp in north Delhi.

On its part, Delhi Police has prepared a list of over 150 roads that are virtual death traps.

The list includes some of Delhi’s busiest and most used roads, including the two ring roads, the Delhi-Gurgaon road and those passing through busy areas like ITO.

The traffic police has written to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Public Works Department (PWD), National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) on the issue - the multiplicity of authority that deals with the capital’s affairs.

Blaming the civic agencies for the collapse, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) S.N. Srivastava also expressed his helplessness at the inconvenience being caused to the commuters in this city of more than 15 million.

“The situation would not change until or unless we have better roads, and efficient and sufficient drainage systems. The civic agencies are responsible for traffic jams,” Srivastava told IANS.

While the MCD has 2,300 km of the road network under its jurisdiction, the PWD has nearly 400 km to take care of. The passing the buck game between the two agencies is a familiar one for all citizens.

“It is sad that civic agencies are blaming each other. It simply speaks about their lack of farsightedness and preparedness before the monsoon sets in. Any one can pass the buck but what about the common people,” said a MCD official, shifting the blame to senior bureaucrats and elected representatives of MCD.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who will be facing elections soon, accepts the problem and told reporters earlier this week: “Delhi being the national capital, the roads are important. It is necessary to have quality upkeep and instant repair mechanism so that visitors and residents feel satisfied and there is no ground for any complaint.”

But an increasing cynical populace is sceptical.

“They will fill up the craters with bricks. They lack a long-term plan. And we will be back to square one in the next monsoon,” said Narottam Samal, a bank executive.

And that, unfortunately for Delhiites, is so true. The story of this monsoon is set to be repeated - year after year.

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