The other day, flurry of activities were noticed on some lanes in Bhubaneswar. Hurried cleaning was done, heavy machineries were rolled giving a fresh layer of black coat to a few roads and denizens wondered if the VVIP would be passing that way. President, Smt Droupadi Murmu was visiting the city and that made the authorities work in a hurry.
Such occasions when VVIPs visit a place, make many people happy, for good reasons. Renovation works are taken up on urgency and often with huge costs. On such occasions, normal financial prudence is thrown to the winds. The focus is on optics and the system relapses to state of indifference once the big occasion is over. Bhubaneswar would soon host the Hockey World Cup - a mega event, and citizens would experience a massive facelift and attendant extravagance.
Why does the city need frequent facelift?
Let us pitch our study right in smart-city infrastructure’s dark underbelly. A wide road in front of the BJB Junior College Building was extensively renovated; a culvert was constructed to facilitate flow of storm water. All these were done not long ago. Suddenly a loaded truck negotiating the culvert fell into the drain when a few concrete slabs gave way. Now the entire drain has been filled with earth and perhaps there won’t be any culvert. How the stormwater would be regulated is not clear. In the meantime, the wide road has been badly damaged. Road and culvert maintenance jobs, by and large, suffer from quality deficit and public discontent and disillusionment keep swelling.
City roads keep being dug up for many reasons that include laying cables, attending to choked sewer, raising welcome arches for political leaders, erecting makeshift stage for music show. Footpaths are by and large under occupation by vendors; and where these are not, are unsuitable for pedestrians. There are non functional e-toilets, non-functional e-kiosks. Execution of works continues to be clumsy.
Concrete works are hardly moist cured which is a common method that ensures concrete slab become extremely strong and durable. The way splurge is resorted to by multiple agencies for projects with little relevance or little consideration towards quality indicates total absence of accountability and millions of public money gets wasted. All these result in potholes on roads, water-logging, spillage of sewage, outbreak of Dengue.
Discipline and accountability would have ensured a much better urban infrastructure and value for money. It could avoid facelift measures and hurried applying of veneer. Window-dressing culture is now too deeprooted to be dispensed with. Its virtues are many. It generates a feel good ambience, it keeps primary stakeholders happy. The contractors, the suppliers and the supervisors make windfall gains. It makes the soft underbelly of urban infrastructure look healthy. The only segments that feel shortchanged are the non-corporate taxpayers and the citizens. In any case, the prevailing style of governance has ensured steady diminution of these two segments.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at email@example.com)
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