Adivashi readers would recall that the expansion work on the Mankhurd-Vashi-Panvel state highway was forcibly halted by the Navi Mumbai traffic police since the work was causing much more hardships than solving any. Now the police have this shocking piece of information: the shoddy construction work has resulted in the death of 155 people over the past 30 months – that is more than five a day!

With construction material scattered all over, absence of proper traffic signs for diversions and unpredictable potholes have all contributed to the accidents, police say. An IIT survey also shows that as many as 1,151 potholes could be found on the highway due to substandard quality of construction, particularly after the month-long heavy rains, says Shiv Sena worker Vijay Mane who filed an RTI query. The traffic snarls throughout the Vashi-Panvel stretch and the potholes even on the just opened flyovers bear testimony to the fact that all is not well with the expanded highway.

Now, one witnesses a sudden flurry of road repairs, apparently in view of the upcoming Ganesh festival for which idols of various sizes will be transported to Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. Please remember the fact that idols are made of delicate material and they can break if the vehicles keep tilting left, right and centre.

Readers by now are familiar with the frequent incidents of ceiling plasters falling in less than 40-year-old buildings constructed by CIDCO. Last week, the ceiling plaster of a 26- year-old privately constructed building at Turbhe collapsed killing an 11th  standard student. The plaster fell on the boy’s chest. Officials say water accumulation on the building’s terrace could have led to the mishap. This is a grim reminder of the vital fact that maintenance of buildings is equally important as their construction. Adivashi has been raising concern over the poor quality of construction of buildings – from CIDCO built to private ones.

One may have doubts over the slow pace of certain civic works like garbage clearance and road repairs. But here comes a surprise! NMMC Standing Committee has recently cleared proposals costing Rs 62 crores for various works in just six minutes, that too without any discussion.

This hurried move was apparently to escape the possible impact of the code of conduct for the forthcoming legislative assembly elections the schedule for which could be declared any time.

In yet other “speedy” decision, NMMC general body cleared proposal for interior works of the newly built civic headquarters on the Palm Beach Road. This resolution, again passed without any discussion, would cost the tax payer Rs 40 crores. Earlier, the general body cleared a Rs 40-lakh budget for air-conditioning works at the headquarters. A question which is being hotly debated in the city is: whether the iconic structure, resembling the White House, has become a white elephant?

While the elected representatives seem to be busy preparing for the Assembly elections, a rather curious development has just gone almost unnoticed. Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik “inaugurated” a service road between Seawoods and Kille Gaothan. An old time resident of Kille Gaothan and a fellow media professional, Raju Kane, pointed out in his Facebook posting that the road has always existed. His daughter grew up cycling here. His question was: where is the need to “inaugurate” an old road, even if it is done with the elections in mind?

Now, let us turn to some good news! Vegetable prices, which have zoomed with the speed of a rocket, have begun to come down – many not with the same speed, though! Improved supply from the vegetable growing areas in the State and neighbouring Karnakata has resulted in the price fall for which no political leaders can take credit. Consumers can feel the difference even in Vashi’s retail shops, infamous for charging high rates, as one has to pay a bit less now.

Vexed by late coming of staff at NMMC offices? You can heave a sigh of relief as NMMC Commissioner Abasaheb Jarhad has begun to make surprise visits to various civic offices and pull up the errant staff. He warned of strict disciplinary action if any employee is consistently late. NMMC has of late installed biometric attendance system at its offices. Check on late attendance and early leaving reminds one of the iron hand of the Emergency days (1975-77).

One hopes Jarhad would also keep an eye on corruption and bribery at the civic body. All that he needs to do is to conduct random checks the pockets and brief cases at the exit gate.

Thanks to NMMC, commuters can hope for smooth rides on city buses as the transport wing has inducted 50 new buses – 40 air-conditioned Volvo and 10 mini – under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNRUM). The centre pays half of the cost, while the State government contributes 30%. The civic body pays just 20%. NMMC and other local self governments seem to have learnt to quickly reap JNNRUM benefits before the Modi government decides to scrap it as part of its drive against welfare projects named after Nehru-Gandhi leaders.

Despite the criticism of the pricing of CIDCO’s affordable housing project for the low income groups, the planning body sold over a lakh application forms for 3,294 flats to be built at sector-36, Kharghar. An upbeat CIDCO says it has already received 2,629 applications duly filled in.

This clearly demonstrates the demand for such homes and the faith in a government agency, visa-vis private developers who have unsold stock.

This is the 86th in a series on Navi Mumbai by veteran media professional B N Kumar, a long time resident of Mumbai’s twin city. He can be contacted at: mailbnk@gmail.com

B N Kumar

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