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Saturday, July 30, 2011

The BMC Has Charged Contractors A Paltry Penalty For The Inconvenience Mumbaikars Have Faced On Potholed Roads


Soon after BMC chief Subodh Kumar addressed the civic house on Friday on potholes this monsoon, the BMC attempted to show on Saturday that it has cracked the whip on errant road contractors. Details from the roads department show that Rs 68,200 has been collected in fines from the contractors till Thursday. 

    However, sources said this amount was collected from around just six to seven contractors. This means that an average of Rs 10,000 to Rs 11,000 could have been collected per contractor. Sources said the average potholing contract in the city goes for Rs 2 crore to Rs 3 crore. 
    According to BMC officials, before appearing in the civic house on Friday, the mu
nicipal commissioner had already passed instructions that stringent action should be taken against erring contractors. "We agree that we have been a little slow in taking action against contractors. But we are imposing fines and every ward has been informed to do the needful. If the contract provisions are violated, we will certainly take action against contractors," said a senior official in the roads department. 
    According to the contract rules, a fine of Rs 1,000 per spot per day is levied if the contractor fails to attend to a pothole within 24 hours. The fine grows as long as the stretch is not attended to by the contractor. 
    Officials said that the premonsoon penalty is much higher, starting from a minimum of Rs 50,000 per spot per day. In 2006, 12 of the 24 wards' contractors were given fines ranging from Rs 3,500 to Rs 2 lakh for shoddy work and de
lays in filling potholes. 
Many citizens, irate with the roads they have had to put up with this monsoon, criticized the punishment given to the contractors. Most have said that it's too little for inconsiderateness of this magnitude. "Is this a joke? We spend a huge amount on paying taxes and they are fined a paltry amount of Rs 1,000 per spot per day? They are simply making a mockery of our suffering. Why can't the municipal corporation learn lessons from other countries? It's time they get serious about something they are paid for," said Oshiwara resident Twisha Deb.
The municipal corporation's delayed action against contractors has given political parties, like the 
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, an opportunity to threaten that they will take the law into their own hands. The party has threatened that it will take action against contractors if the administration fails to do so. The party recently reprimanded two contractors in Dadar and Mahim for shoddy work. 

wow... insane bmc... it's like saying.... only 100 backs were broken as compared to 200 last year :S 
    — Glen Mendonca 
how often do you travel, Mr BMC chief ?? 
    — Vagesh Prasad 
Is THIS supposed to be their defence? That we still have 2,800 pothole stretches? So the number of bomb explosions were lesser this time as compared to last time... i suppose we should be thankful for that too.... 
    — Apoorv Misra 
If this is the sorry state of roads in a city like Mumbai, then I wonder how much worse it would be in the rural parts.. Every year it's all false promises and the same result everytime.. Seriously, shame on the BMC..!! 
    — Pannkaj Kapoor 
It's like saying we have at least our pants on this year!! Last year, you see, we were completely... well... naked!!! Shameless people!! 
    — Ninad Dhairyawan 
What is the use of giving this much money as tax. we should stop paying taxes. sab sidhe ho jaenge 
    — Nidhi Bhatt 
Mumbai roads are a testament to Ford's decision and announcement of putting 5,000 jobs in Gujarat. It's been said that less than 25% of the issued contract materials make it to the actual job sites. Continue to accept this level of infrastructure and your neighbours will be 
globally known for building Fords & Nanos, and Mumbaikars will be known for building boats. Who's laughing now? 
    — Rick Cran 
It's sick!! when i ride my activa through these pot holes because of traffic, you can't even change paths :( and i am so scared as my activa will fall sticking in one of the potholes:(( please try filling those potholes, especially near goregoan :( aarey road is worst for commuters :( 
    — Preeyaa Mishra 
This yearly pothole issue is a very big multi-crore business between 
the administration, the contractors and the babus and netas. After all, there is a lot of money to be made and it's the "Mumbai Manoos" who suffers. where are the political parties that have the war cry "Mumbai Amchi"? what are they doing now or is it a very well-oiled operation? 
    — Gordon Jacobs 
every year they say they are cracking the whip. what is this a Joke? 
    — Leslie Almeida 
2,800 pot holes!! Not possible, they have missed a "zero" for sure. The financial capital of the 2nd fastest moving economy of the world cannot even offer proper roads, forget other amenities 
    — Adit Ahuja 
To take part in the online discussions, visit the Facebook 
    page of 'The Times of India' 
Times View Fining half-a-dozen contractors Rs 68,200 for the shoddy job done on Mumbai's roads is a cruel joke; and the joke is on millions of Mumbaikars who use these roads every day. The "punishment" is a poor reflection of the BMC's sense of judgment, and to call it lenient – given the state of Mumbai's roads – would be an understatement. The punishment should have been exemplary, like blacklisting the contractor, and not a monetary fine that is an embarrassing fraction of the money that contractors make at the taxpaying citizen's expense. Sena men thrash MSRDC officials 
Thane: Shiv Sena activists led by local MLA Eknath Shinde roughed up officials of the state-owned MSRDC and a private contractor for delay in completing work on the three flyovers on Ghodbunder Road, which has become a motorists'nightmare due to frequent car crashes and traffic woes. 
    The Sena men allegedly resorted to "strong-arm tactics" during an on-site meeting with MSRDC executive engineer B Mali and Desai, project manager of Walecha construction company, building the three flyovers at Manpada, Hiranandani-Patlipada and Waghbil junctions. 

    Shinde, who was accompanied by mayor Ashok Vaity and MLAs Rajan Vichare and Pratap Sarnaik, sought an explanation from the officials for delay in the projects which were scheduled for completion in January 2011. 
    "The work orders for the three flyovers were issued in July 2009 and the project was to be thrown open to the public in January 2001. Till date, however, they have managed to install just the concrete pillars and going by their pace it would take two more years for 
completion. Till then this highway would be turned into a death-trap for motorists," Shinde said. 
    He added that the lack of coordination and multiplicity of agencies involved in the project has created bottlenecks rather than speeding up the work. 
    "The MSRDC claims that the design for the flyover was not sanctioned which caused the delay. I have now given them an ultimatum to ensure that the work is finished by December 2011. The citizens cannot be made to suffer for years because of the bureaucracy and contractors' faults," the Sena MLA said. 
    MSRDC officials were unavailable for comment.

TRACKING MUMBAI'S BUMPY RIDE: TOI reported on July 20 that Mumbai has 7,500 potholes on 1,100 bad stretches

Shiv Sena MLA Eknath Shinde (right) and party workers rough up a contractor for delay in work on flyovers on Ghodbunder Road

Friday, July 29, 2011



BMC's Stringent Steps Reduce Deaths & Positive Cases This Monsoon; Other Maladies Flourish

 Monsoon is not over yet, but civic health officials feel the worst of the monsoon maladies may just be behind us. The sting of malaria that usually hits the city in Julyend seems blunted this season.
    "The number of cases have come down drastically in comparison to the same period last year," said Manisha Mhaiskar, additional municipal commissioner in charge of health. If 4,626 patients tested positive for malaria last July, the number up to July 23 stood a little at 1,426. "The slide positivity rate that shows the parasite's presence in general population has fallen to 1.6 from 9 last July," Mhaiskar added.
    The BMC, not surprisingly, is ready to take a bow. After the city was infamously held up as the country's malaria capital last year, the civic authorities took up the massive task of changing this unhealthy equation. Not only were engineers brought in to make suggestions, but scientific surveys were undertaken to detect the presence of the malarial parasite in the general population. "It has been the culmination of almost 10 months of hard work by various BMC departments, including the building proposal cell," said Mhaiskar.
    Doctors in the private sector too acknowledge that the malaria assault this rainy season has been blunted. Dr Hemant Thacker, who consults at Jaslok & Bhatia hospitals, said: "It isn't as if malaria is not there. But it is true that we have so far this year seen only about 40% of the cases we saw in the same period last year."
    BMC officials feel it is due to their elaborate planning that malaria isn't a big menace so far. Every week, meetings were called that were attended by officials from the building proposal department along with the assistant municipal commissioner, the assistant engineer (maintenance), the health post volunteer, the pest control official and civic doctors.
    A senior health department official said the civic body adopted a five-step agen
da. The first phase was to repair and spruce up BMC properties to check water stagnation. "Our engineers suggested we add a slope to most of the BMC buildings so that water would flow down," said Mhaiskar. Stagnant water is the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
    The next step was to force others to get their act together. In March 2011, civic officials went around 2,500 construction sites in the city and identified 1.5 lakh labourers. Builders were told to ensure that water did not stagnate on their properties. "Only 10% of the builders were issued stop-work notices. The remaining complied readily."
    In April, the BMC called a meeting of all government bodies that own properties across the city. This included the railways, the airport authority, the port trust, the National Textiles Corporation, the Central Public Works Department and the state Public Works Department. "We had carried out surveys of their structures and pointed out specifically to each of them about what was needed to be done," said a public health department official.
    Every ward officer was told to find out the positive cases in his or her ward and to study the area from where the infected patient came. This enabled the BMC to identify critical clusters. At the same time, community health volunteers were asked to get every fever case from their jurisdiction to the nearest civic dispensary. "This ensured early intervention," said a civic official.
    Civic officials have a theory about last year's outbreak. "The medical community had never insisted on malaria patients taking the full 15-day course of primaquine, which kills every trace of the parasite in the body," said a civic doctor.
    "So, over five years, the parasite load in the public had become high. This contributes to the cycle of infection: a malaria mosquito bites a patient with some parasite load and carried it to the next person," said Mhaiskar. But last year the BMC made it mandatory for all private and public sector doctors to insist on completion of the primaquine dosage.

Potholes take their toll

As Anger Mounts At State Of Roads, Motorists Refuse To Pay Levy At City's Entries & Exits. Collections Drop 5%

 Toll collections at the city's gates have taken a hit due to the pothole menace, with motorists from the city and the larger metropolitan region expressing their disgust at the state of roads by refusing to pay toll.
Senior officers of Mumbai Entry Point Toll Ltd (MEPTL) said that collections over the past two weeks have been hit by 4 to 5% because many mo
torists are refusing to pay toll.
    MEPTL, which collects toll at five different entry/exit points, usually collects Rs 60 lakh a day. If 5% of collections are lost, that means Rs 3 lakh is lost daily, which amounts to Rs 42 lakh over two weeks.
    "Over the past two weeks, an average of 4 to 5% of vehicles passing through are not paying the toll daily," said a senior MEPTL
official. "The five toll nakas at Vashi, Airoli, Mulund, Dahisar and LBS Marg (Bhandup) have faced problems collecting the money due to potholes."
    Anger has been mounting against
civic and state officials over the condition of roads this monsoon. TOI reported on Thursday that the city taximen's union will ask the state to refund the one-time road tax. BMC workers, who fill potholes at affected sites, said they face jibes and abuses from motorists and locals.
    A Vashi toll post employee said that most motorists refusing to pay toll, and even some who do, shout things like, "Pehele road thik kar, fir paisa maang."

    Incidentally, a large chunk of the toll collected by MEPTL goes towards building and maintaining flyovers in the city. It goes towards expenses incurred by state agencies to build over 66 flyovers in Mumbai and MEPTL's contract stipulates that it must also maintain 26 of the flyovers, besides some bridges and junctions. The MEPTL paid the Maharashtra State Road Development
Corporation (MSRDC) Rs 2,100 crore for the contract signed late last year. The contract, in place till 2026, allows MEPTL to collect toll and demands that it develop the toll network.
    The toll money doesn't go towards the maintenance of over 1,900 km of BMC roads, which have thousands of potholes.
    Seawoods resident Vijay Ramamoorthy, who pays Rs 60 in toll daily to travel to Mumbai and back for work, once refused to pay the amount. "I get delayed and face other problems due to the potholes," said Ramamoorthy. "Why should I pay toll when even the roads leading to toll nakas are pockmarked?"
    He and another Seawoods resident, Praveen Morarka, also questioned why only those living outside Mumbai have to pay a toll. "I don't understand why only those people who have to go back and forth between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, Thane or Vasai are charged toll so that flyovers in Mumbai are maintained. A majority of Mumbaikars also use the flyovers, but don't drive out of the city," said Morarka.
    The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority maintains over 70 to 80 km of roads and flyovers in the city, the Public Works Department around 45 km of highways and flyovers and the MSRDC around 15 to 20 km.

Workers face public ire
Mumbai: The BMC's foot soldiers face their share of public bitterness due to the state of the city's roads. On Thursday at 2 am, TOI met a team of seven men working at Ranibagh at the mouth of the Lalbaug flyover. A family in a Honda City stopped just to abuse the workers for the shoddy work carried out by the BMC. BMC supervisor Manoj Singh could only smile while the driver continued with his rant. "We have to suffer because of your poor work," yelled the driver.
    A labourer said, "We understand why people are angry. Who would like to travel on such roads. But we just follow what we are told." He said the fixing of potholes is temporary as a heavy downpour will wash away the mixture.
    Labourer Vijay Sharma claimed the MMRDA caused the craters on the road adjacent to the flyover. "They totally destroyed the road while constructing the flyover. The BMC has to now take the responsibility," said Sharma.
    Singh, while instructing his workers, said not all members of the public were vitriolic. "The other day, when we were working at Maharana Pratap Chowk, people came down and offered us tea. Some stood with us and tried to understand the repairing mechanism. But this is not always the case."— Shawan Sen

ROUGH PATCH FOR THE PUBLIC: Huge craters dot the roads right outside the civic headquarters

Bad roads a pain in the back: Docs

Mumbai: Back problems and slipped discs caused or aggravated by the city's abominable roads have become the bane of Mumbaikars' existence. Orthopaedics in public hospitals say that every day at least 10% of their patients are being treated for bad backs caused because they have to commute for long hours on pothole-ridden roads. "Of the 200 patients who come to us with various orthopaedic problems, at
least 20 suffer from some form of spine problem or the other because of travelling on bumpy roads every day to work," said Dr Pradeep Bhonsale, head of orthopaedic department in KEM Hospital.
    Orthopaedics, gynaecologists and general practitioners have noticed a rise in the number of Mumbaikars complaining of moderate to severe back aches. The bad roads are a serious health
concern as lakhs of people depend on them for their daily commute, say doctors. Should back ailments be listed as a monsoon ailment along with diseases like the common viral flu and malaria?
    Dr Hemant Thacker, who consults in many south Mumbai hospitals, says every rainy season the number of back problem cases rises. "This year, too, we are seeing an increase in bad back cases which can be directly related to regular rides over potholed roads," said Thacker.
Angry motorists refuse to pay toll
    Motorists from the city and the larger metropolitan region are expressing their anger at the poor condition of the roads by refusing to pay toll. Senior officers of Mumbai Entry Point Toll Ltd said that toll collections over the past two weeks have been hit by 4 to 5%. TNN P 2 
Docs caution pregnant women
Mumbai: It's not just the elderly, those with existing back problems, or pregnant women who have to be extra careful. The condition of our roads is so bad that even people who never felt a twinge of pain in their backs have begun to suffer from slipped discs.
    Take the case of 36-year-old Savarna Raman who never had a history of back ailments. Last week, Raman, who lives in the western suburbs, went to Sujoy Hospital at Vile Parle complaining of severe back pain. At the time, the doctors treating her thought her pain was
due to a swelling in the spine. But when they conducted a battery of tests, they were shocked to find that one of her discs had popped out of her spine after a long and bumpy ride in an autorickshaw.
    "The disc between her L4 and L5 vertebrae had popped out. About 60% of it had come out of the spine alignment. We did an endoscopic discectomy on her, where we removed the portion of the disc that had slipped out," said Dr Samir Pilankar, a spine surgeon who also consults in BSES, Seven Hills and Cooper Hospitals at Andheri (W) and Vile Parle—all of which are in areas where the pothole menace is the most prominent.
    Gynaecologists, too, are worried about their patients' well-being. Dr Rekha Daver, head of gynaecology at J J Hospital, said: "Among other things, we advise pregnant women, especially those in their third trimester to avoid long bumpy rides. In a normal pregnancy, women can work till the time they experience labour pains. But too many jerks or bumps while travelling can cause complications."
    While a few city gynaecologists have noticed a rise in the number of premature births, they say there are no studies that directly link this phenomenon with bad roads. "We advise women in their third trimester to avoid travelling in autos and big vehicles, like buses. They should not be travelling on bad stretches especially during peak commuting hours," Daver added. But are there any good stretches of roads left in the city?
    Women who are very close to their delivery dates have to take many precautions. "If a heavily pregnant woman travels on a very bad road, she may have a premature delivery, which can cause further
complications," said Daver.
    Those who have overcome back problems face the risk of a relapse. With the exception of trains, all other forms of public transport—taxis, autos and buses—cannot protect a person from the health hazards that are potholes, said Dr Pradeep Bhonsale. While on a road trip to Panvel, Sanjay Trivedi who had a 'stabilized back problem' suffered from a slipped disc for the second time in a span of a few years. The 54-yearold businessman has no choice but
to take complete bed rest for at least a week before even considering resuming work.
    Physicians say it's not just potholes that are to blame for Mumbaikar's back troubles. "Bad roads do have a direct impact and can cause backaches and injuries. But badly maintained roads are the reason behind traffic jams, which in turn cause high blood pressure, hyper acidity, stress, lack of rest and frayed tempers," said Dr Hemant Thacker.


If you already have a bad back, a bumpy ride on Mumbai's potholeridden road can aggravate it. In extreme cases, it can cause a slipped disc Elderly people and those who use two-wheelers, too, are at risk of suffering from backaches

What Happens
Both the lumbar vertebrae (where the lower back begins) and the cervical vertebrae (which begin at the base of the skull) can be affected with continuous jolts due to bad roads A sudden or a series of continuous jerks may cause pain in the neck and shoulder. If your body is subjected to this every day, it may become a chronic problem In extreme cases, a person may suffer from vertebral compression fractures or round back deformity The C4 and the C5 cervical discs and the L3 and L4 lumbar discs are especially vulnerable since they face outwards

Avoid travelling in autorickshaws or backseats of buses if you have a history of back problems Pregnant women who are close to labour should use private vehicles or taxis if the road is too bumpy If you use a motorbike, ride slowly and try to swerve around potholes Don't sit in front of the computer for hours on end Keep your posture straight and take adequate rest before and after a bumpy journey

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tree was mall’s responsibility: BMC

Victims' Family Blames The Civic Authority For Negligence And Plans To File A Case; Others Call Its Attitude 'Lackadaisical'


Mumbai: Sitting in one corner of a room in his residence in a white kurta and pyjama, Narendra Bhansali (26) mourns the death of his wife Manisha and sixmonth-old baby Aarvi. He stares at the ceiling and has not spoken since. "He is in shock and hasn't even cried," said uncle Peer Chand Bhansali on Monday. 
    Narendra was just few metres away when he saw the tree fall on Manisha and Aarvi outside the CR-II mall in Nariman Point. They had gone to watch a new movie, but decided to return when the tickets were unavailable. Few of his friends were with Manisha when the incident occurred. They managed to pull out Aarvi and take her to GT Hospital. 
    "BMC is responsible for this death. We lost them just due to their negligence," said Anil Mehta, a relative. The family plans to file a case and demand compensation for the loss. 
    MLA Annie Shekhar and corporator Vinod Shekhar visited the family in the evening. BMC, though, denies that it has anything to do with the accident. "The tree was in the mall premises. We have asked tree experts to give us a report of what went wrong. Accordingly, we will see if we can initiate proceedings against the mall. We carry out pruning regularly, and will now conduct an inspection of unhealthy trees," said Suhas Karavande, deputy municipal commissioner (gar
dens). "In this case, it was the mall's responsibility to prune the tree, which it didn't. If they had given us an application, we would have given them permission to trim the tree," he added. 
    A team of experts saw that the tree had been pruned only from one side. "There were paver blocks around the tree, because of which there was no space for water to percolate. The roots became weak. A lot of concretization has been carried out around the tree," said tree authority member Niranjan Shetty. "The laying of underground utilities also spoiled the root structure and weakened it." 
    Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta said, "We have taken stock of the situation. Experts have also visited the site and protocols will be issued to all the concerned departments so that adequate care 
is taken when development takes place around trees. In this case, a lot of concretization had taken place which curbed the growth of the root," said Gupta. 
    Meanwhile, the corporate communications department of the CR-II mall said that the area in which the tree stood is public land. "It is BMC's duty to prune it," the spokesperson said. 

Times View 
Innocent lives are being lost due to negligence and apathy on the part of private agencies as well as BMC. The callousness of both the parties is inexcusable. Primarily, it is the civic body's duty to ensure that trees are pruned regularly. Even if the tree is in private premises, it cannot be an excuse for BMC to not take note or initiate proceedings against the owners. Junior engineers (trees) of every ward should take rounds in the area throughout the year to check the status of trees. Housing societies and private agencies too should not be careless.

BRUTAL FATE: (Above) The site where Manisha Bhansali and her six-month-old baby Aarvi were killed when a tree came crashing down. (Below) Nephew Mayur shows the last photo of the Bhansali family, which he clicked on his cellphone

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Dangerous levels of caffeine found in energy drinks

New Delhi: Energy drinks being sold in India have dangerous levels of caffeine, a Delhi-based NGO, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has said after conducting lab tests. According to the tests, 44% of the samples violate the maximum permissible limits of caffeine prescribed by the government. 
    The CSE tested leading 'energy' drink brands like Red Bull and Cloud 9, and found that many samples had breached the government set standard of 145 parts per million of caffeine. The NGO also warned that the industry was pushing for the relaxation of government norms, which would make it legitimate for the drinks to have much higher concentrations of the energy booster, laced with dangerous chemicals in them. 
    Under the new rules, the industry wants to more than double the limits 
of infusing caffeine into the drinks that are usually targeted at youth and health enthusiasts. "The Prevention of Food Adulteration allows a limit of 145 parts per million (ppm) of caffeine in carbonated beverages, but 'energy' drink manufacturers want a 320 ppm cap. What's worse, the country's food regulatory body seems to be towing their line," the CSE said in a release. 
Red Alert 
CSE tests 8 'energy' drink brands; finds 44% samples breach govt standard of 145 parts per mn of caffeine 
Caffeine in these drinks can have severe impact on health, says CSE, asking for strict regulatory control 
Red Bull makers say it has as much caffeine as 
a cup of coffee 
'Energy drink caffeine level same as in coffee' 
New Delhi: Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has asked for strict regulatory controls on caffeine content in packaged energy drinks like Red Bull and Cloud 9. "Their makers… claim that these help increase alertness of the mind and improve concentration, stamina and athletic performance, but in reality, the caffeine in them can cause severe health impacts," said CSE. 
    Red Bull producers in response said, "Red Bull Energy Drink contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, 80mg. 
    This is the same in the 160 countries across the world where our product is on sale. The health authorities of these countries, including India, have concluded that Red Bull is safe to consume. Red Bull is not "banned" anywhere: it would be like "banning" coffee, colas or other caffeinated drinks". 
    The NGO, which had earlier 
stirred a debate by uncovering the presence of pesticide in carbonated drinks, pointed out that while the regular drinks were allowed a lower safe limit, the companies were asking that 'energy drinks' be allowed to power their drinks with a higher level of the chemical. 
    CSE tested 16 samples — two each of eight brands — of 'energy' drinks purchased at random from markets across the country. 
    The brands tested were Red Bull, Coca-Cola's Burn, Cloud 9, Hector Beverages' Tzinga, Monster Energy Ltd's Monster Ripper and three of JMJ group's XXX energy drink brands—Rejuve, Nicofix and Minus. The tests, carried out at its lab, found that 38% of the samples breached the permissible limit mentioned on the label, while 25% did not mention the caffeine content on the label. Worse, 44% breached the caffeine limit of 145 ppm. TNN
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