The Chief Minister’s intervention in getting the pothole-ridden roads restored is in itself an admission that the state of the roads in Goa had worsened to a point where it required the head of government in the State to direct the Public Works Department to work out an action plan to remove the potholes. The decision for an action plan to improve the road conditions was taken at a meeting between Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, PWD Minister Ramkrishna (Sudin) Dhavalikar, PWD Principal Chief Engineer, chief engineer and executive engineers of the department.
Executive engineers have now been instructed to visit and check the state of roads for subsidence, potholes, breaks in wearing course, fallen trees, etc, and submit a weekly report to the Principal Chief Engineer. They have also been directed to keep hot/cold mix of roads on standby and depending on the climatic condition to undertake repair work at the first dry spell. The Chief Minister is also known to have stressed on the need to improve inter-departmental co-ordination, especially when road cutting comes into play.
The monsoon in Goa is not a new phenomenon. The incessant rains do lead to deep potholes in the roads and the department should have been prepared for the cavernous holes on the roads, and a system for their repairs should have already been in place or worked out within the department itself. The fact that it required the Chief Minister’s intervention to arrive at this decision to patch up the potholes indicates that the State administration is not functioning at its best. These are mere repairs and should have been taken up by the staff of the department as a matter of course.
This is the second instance in little over a month that the Chief Minister has had to intervene with a department’s functioning to sort out matters affecting the people. The first time was when the taluka of Tiswadi was kept without power for an entire day and in darkness for a major part of the night. The Chief Minister, who at that time was undergoing treatment in the United States, had later called up the minister with instructions on how to handle such situations. Both these incidents raise the question on the functioning of the government and its ability to perform without the Chief Minister’s intervention or without pressure from the people.
If in the case of the power shutdown in May the people had protested, even marched in the dark to the site where a high tension line was being shifted and that had led to the blackout, to voice their displeasure, the flood of pictures on social media websites of Goa’s potholed roads left the government with no option but to act to improve the road situation. In both cases the government’s response came after the issue was raised by the people. This is indicative of a government that responds only to people’s protests rather than being aware of the needs of the people and delivering.
The promise of the PWD Minister now is that the potholes will be removed in the next ten days. Current weather conditions may not permit a complete restoration of the roads, which will mean that the patchwork done could get washed away by the rains, leading to the potholes resurfacing. The solution lies in having a system whereby the maintenance of the roads is taken up regularly. One of the measures now enlisted is that the executive engineers visiting the areas under their jurisdiction and preparing a weekly report. This system should be followed not just for the duration of the monsoon, but throughout the year, and repairs undertaken. This can ensure that the roads are motorable all year round, without the intervention of the Chief Minister.