Ministers differ on role of potholes in fatal mishaps

A day after a 27-year-old man died in an accident at Turbhe on the Sion-Panvel Highway, MSRDC Minister Eknath Shinde said he will be ordering a probe against the contractor responsible for maintenance.

Promising action, Mr. Shinde, who is also Guardian Minister for Thane district, visited the site on Saturday. “We will repair the potholes with whatever is required: Paver blocks or cold mix. Later, we will look into concretisation as the stretch has been causing tremendous inconvenience to commuters. I will also look into taking appropriate action against the contractor.”

Meanwhile, State PWD Minister Chandrakant Patil has claimed pothole-ridden roads cannot be entirely blamed for accidents. The Minister’s statement comes against the backdrop of five deaths due to damaged roads in the Mumbai region over the past two weeks.

Speaking to reporters in Sangli on Saturday, Mr. Patil said, “When you talk about a death in such an accident, you forget that five lakh other people have travelled on the same road. You can not put the entire blame on the (condition of) roads alone.”

He added that he didn’t have complete information about recent accidents, and action will be taken against officials based on the facts of each case. Family members of the deceased will get due compensation, he said.

Mr. Patil said, “People have a habit of changing their opinions constantly. They will like something for a while and soon pass a negative remark (on the same issue).”

The comment was termed insensitive by the Congress. Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam claimed there were 20,000 potholes on Mumbai roads, and not 300 as stated by the civic body in court. He said he will file an FIR against the CM, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, the Municipal Commissioner and Mayor for the bad roads.

MNS differs

Taking a dig at Mr. Shinde, MNS city president Gajanan Kale said, “If [Mr. Shinde] was serious about taking action against the contractor, why has he not approached the police yet and filed an FIR? Today, Shiv Sena men came to have a look, tomorrow BJP men will visit the spot. This is exactly what happened last year as well during the monsoon period”

Mr. Kale has written to the Navi Mumbai Commissioner of Police and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis demanding cases be registered against Mr. Shinde and Minister Praveen Pote for accidents on the Sion-Panvel Highway.

An RTI query filed by activist Deepak Singh revealed that since 2016, 108 people have died on this highway in road accidents.

“Pothole-affected stretches are at Kopra, Juinagar, Vashi and Belapur. Not only PWD, other agencies like MSRDC, CIDCO, BMC and NMMC have failed to maintain the road. Although heavy rains were forecast for this year, nothing was done beforehand,” Mr. Singh said. —With PTI inputs

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