The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Friday told the state government to construct service roads and barriers on the Mumbai-Goa highway to safeguard residents of villages on the stretch. The court said there are chances of speeding vehicles mowing down villagers crossing over the road. The HC even noted that there has been little progress in the ongoing work of highway road widening.
The bench was dealing with a PIL filed by one Owais Pechkar, highlighting the danger posed by potholes and the ongoing road-widening work at the Mumbai-Goa highway.
On Friday when the matter was called out, state advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni submitted an affidavit detailing the status of the road-widening work on the entire stretch.
The bench, having perused the status of the highway work, said, “The progress is dismal. There is hardly any progress from April. In fact, only 1% progress at some points.”
At this, Kumbhakoni tried to convince the bench, saying that due to the ongoing pandemic the authorities couldn’t find labourers. “Surprising it is,” Chief Justice Datta remarked, adding, “How come other contractors got labourers even during the pandemic?”
Notably, the road-widening work has been given to multiple contractors, who are allotted portions of the entire stretch.
The judges noted that some contractors, who were given the orders in 2018, have completed their work up to 90% per cent and even beyond that. However, a few contractors, who got the orders in 2017 have hardly managed to complete even 60% of the work.
During the hearing, Justice Kulkarni pointed out that there are ‘unmarked speed brakers’ on roads and that there is also no proper barricading. “Especially near the villages… That needs to be done as early as possible. This will ensure there is no crossover (by villagers),” Justice Kulkarni said, adding, “Also construct service roads. This would be really helpful… it would give proper access for villagers to cross roads without any danger. The safety of villagers must be considered.”
Kumbhakoni agreed there are no barricades and no service roads on this stretch of the national highway. “Seems only a rosy picture is placed before us,” the Chief Justice remarked.
Further, the bench asked Kumbhakoni as to why potholes continued to pop-up despite the ongoing work. Kumbhakoni said the original road was made up of tar and now the road is being concretised. He clarified that the tar section has potholes.
Meanwhile, Pechkar informed the judges that since 2010 there have been around 2,442 deaths on the highway. The judges, however, said they would consider the issue on the next date of hearing. Pechkar also sought urgent directives to the authorities to fill up the potholes as a majority of citizens would be heading to their hometowns in Konkan for the forthcoming Ganeshotsav festival.
“During this pandemic whether they (citizens) will be allowed to travel or not is another issue. Would it be feasible at all this year, that’s the issue. Thus, let’s consider all this on the next date,” the bench said while adjourning the matter.