No Stitches in Time

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Before the onset of the monsoon, we had called the attention of the government in several editorials to potholes that had appeared on several major roads in Imphal, warning that if these were not mended in time, the monsoon waters would wash away the rather thin bitumen linings in and around these potholes, damaging the roads much more extensively. Despite these urgent appeals, the government refused to pay any heed, and now the conditions of these roads are there for everybody to see. One of the worst damaged areas is the one adjacent to the Andro Parking on the eastern side of the All India Radio, Imphal complex. There was a huge unattended pothole here for a long time and once it started raining, water accumulated in it and seeped into the earth and pebble bed the road rested on and weakened its foundation. The road has since been literally washed away leaving huge pits, and because these are now filled with rainwater, are virtually invisible, therefore extremely hazardous for motorists. Now that the thin bitumen cover has been washed away and the innards exposed for public view, even sycophants of the powers that be will think twice before defending the quality of work put into the making of these roads. Other than the Andro Parking area, the Uripok Road at the base of the B.T. Road flyover has to be seen to be believed. This relatively recently made road is now reduced to a dirt road. The RIMS Road from Nagamapal all the way to the point where it joins the Uripok Road is another stretch that would put anybody in a depression.

Much of these damages, and the consequent inconveniences and dangers thrust on thousands of ordinary commuters everyday could have been saved if the authorities paid heed to the timeless saying that a stitch in time saves nine. The cost to the state exchequer that would have been saved by such prudence is imaginable too. But then, as they say public property is nobody’s property, and those in the government who are entrusted precisely with these public properties are the ones who care the least about their charge. If this were not so, what we are now seeing in the capital Imphal would not have been possible. Furthermore, if this is what is happening in the capital, anybody can imagine what is happening in districts, the remote ones in particular. Yet, despite the obvious failure, and despite the avoidable waste of public funds, nobody will be held accountable for the mess. None of those involved in building these roads too would be fazed by the fact that the roads they built cannot stand the test of even one monsoon. Nobody takes pride in the work they do anymore, neither those actually contracted to do the job, nor those who awarded them these contracts, nor those entrusted to certify the compliance of standard of the jobs done. What everyone in the chain would have been interested in would undoubtedly be lining their pockets from the collaborative spinoffs they create from the entire process. In fact, it would not be very wrong to presume that there is a vested interest at work in building these roads not too well so that they are rebuilt practically every year so that the cycle of collaborative looting of public funds is ensured.

This is depressing. But this is also unfortunately what Manipur has become. It has lost all sense of social altruism and those leading the charge are those in power. But the call now must be not of witch hunting. It is not too late to make amends. Let a new work culture be introduced in the state. The effort has to begin with the government. It must first of all strive to introduce some structural changes apart from a stricter monitoring system of its infrastructure construction works. In this regard, it is surprising that in all of its developmental projects, including road construction, the government has not thought of factoring in the cost for maintenance. Nothing lasts forever, however well built, but the government should have known their longevity is directly proportional to the quality of their upkeep. The maintenance does not have to be always major overhauls, but mending little patches of damages so as to prevent them from setting off a progressive and ultimately total atrophy. The road stretch near the Andro Parking and the Uripok Road at the base of the BT Flyover are two loud example of this serious and indeed criminal oversight of the government. What has happened cannot be undone, but we at least hope the government would take note of the matter and do the needful so as to prevent a repeat. But then, we suppose this appeal would probably be as ridiculous as asking compulsive kleptomaniacs not to steal.

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