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Friday, February 10, 2012

Mumbai roads are unbearable, HC says

  Mumbai's roads are unbearable. Any citizen who drives a car or a scooter or even walks on the road knows this," remarked the Bombay High Court on Friday, giving voice to the angst of citizens, who have to put up with bad roads. "We have read reports of people dying due to potholes. Roads in Nagpur are better than in Mumbai," said a division bench of judges Sharad Bobde and R D Dhanuka. 

    The court was hearing a petition filed by an NCP corporator challenging the BMC's decision to appoint a Swiss firm, SGS Consultancy, as quality auditor for Rs 
900-crore roadworks in the city without inviting tenders. The judges questioned the correctness and legality of the BMC's policy of not inviting bids, but also chided the corporator, Niyaz Ahmed Vanu, for approaching the court after delay. 
    The BMC had appointed the Geneva-based firm for Rs 6.78 crore to carry out regular audits of major and minor roadworks. The roadworks are being done by contractors for all major (more than 30 feet wide) and minor (less than 30 feet wide) roads. 
    Senior advocate S Aney, counsel for the petitioner, alleged that the BMC's decision to waive the requirement to invite bids was suspect and was done at the behest of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. Aney said there were 16 other organizations that do quality audit of roads and could have done the work at a lower cost had tenders been invited. The advocate also cited an earlier high court judgment that had ordered tenders to be invited for audit work of the city's roads. 

    Senior advocate Iqbal Chagla, counsel for SGS, opposed the petition, saying the company had been chosen for its work across India and also abroad. "Roads in Mumbai are a crying shame," said advocate Chagla, alleging that the petition was filed at the behest of road contractors who had been hauled up for shoddy roadworks. The advocate said SGS had started its work in October 2011 and had spent close to Rs 80 lakh. "Each of the road contractors stand to lose Rs 10-15 crore if the quality audit work goes ahead." 
    Chagla also said that Vanu 
had been a part of the standing committee that in September 2011 approved the work to be given to SGS without inviting tenders. 
    "The point is, what were you doing till now?," the judges asked the petitioner. "You have approached the court halfway through the eight-month contract. If you were part of the standing committee meeting, you should have approached the court earlier." 
    The court has kept the matter for further hearing for February 13. It has asked the parties to submit judgments in support of their stand. 

Road contractors found violating BMC norms 

Mumbai: Roads 50% thinner than the specification, shoddy materials and concrete mix of poor quality. These are some of the findings of the Swiss-based firm SGS, given a contract by the BMC to carry out a quality audit of roadworks in the city and its suburbs. 
    Senior advocate Iqbal Chagla, and advocates Anirudh Joshi and Viraj Maniar, counsels for SGS, presented the findings in the form of an affidavit to the Bombay High Court on Friday. "Road contractors are taking the city for a ride," said advocate Chagla, pointing out that each contractor stood to lose Rs 10-15 crore if SGS continued with the audit. 
    On Darga Road, Ghatkopar (West), the firm found that the contractor had excavated it by only 400 mm, whereas as per norms the depth should have been 930 mm. 
    Regarding roads in Borivli, Kandivli, Dahisar, Ghatkopar, Andheri and Grant Road, the firm brought to the BMC's notice that contractors' work was in "gross violation" of civic policies. "The contractor (referring to a specific contractor) had started work without waiting for approval of the material or the (con
crete) mix design," said the affidavit. A startling find was that in Kandivli, the thickness of a road laid by a contractor was 50% less than that in the original design. "Is it any wonder that roads are washed away during the monsoon?" asked Chagla. 
    Similar faults were found with work on Kasturba Road and S S Road. The advocate alleged that the petition filed against the appointment of SGS (see the other story) was with the sole intention to stop scrutiny of shoddy roadworks. 

l Darga Road, Ghatkopar (West): Contractor excavated road by only 400 mm when the norms required him to do it by 930 mm 
l Kasturba Road: The thickness of the road was found to be 300 mm, when as per design, it should have been 450 mm 
l Roadworks were carried out in violation of norms in Borivli, Kandivli, Dahisar, Ghatkopar, Andheri and Grant Road 
l In Kandivli, the thickness of a road constructed was 50% less than as planned


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