In an interesting announcement, PWD Minister Deepak Pauskar has stated that 60% of road works allotted in 2020-21 are pending due to a shortage of labour and material, but in the same vein, he once again assures that all road works will be completed before elections. We are beginning to wonder if everything related to the welfare and well-being of common citizens at this juncture is connected to the elections.
It is preposterous that Pauskar is preparing his poll pathway by shrewdly timing road repairs works during the run-up to elections. However, even before that phase begins, the PWD minister will have to explain how he failed on the dozens of timelines he had set earlier. The condition of roads and the newly hot mixed highways continues to be pathetic, and all that Pauskar has done is give vague deadlines. While roads across Goa continue to develop gaping potholes that pose risks to the lives of motorists, he has gone on blaming the pandemic, monsoons, the non-availability of manpower and everything that he could possibly think of.
While the government has opened up the curtains for tourism, it has failed to pay attention to the poor condition of approach roads to beaches and other important areas. Take the example of the world-famous Colva beach where the approach roads dug up for the laying of underground sewerage work are still left uncovered. The Merces junction continues to be a nightmare for motorists with potholes literally covering a large section of the road. The topping of the Atal Setu cable-stayed bridge has developed potholes and cracks. Sadly, even some of the roads which were hot mixed in May have developed cracks with the rubble soling wearing off. Major roads in villages and cities are awaiting repairs across the length and breadth of the State.
Pauskar needs to answer to the people of Goa why there is a repeated failure. We need to know why there is no quality check and control, and why there are only false assurances. We need to know what is the connection with auspicious days like Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali, Christmas and New Year to the maintenance of roads when there is a danger to human lives every single day? If we may recall, there was a time when the fines and penalties under the new Motor Vehicles Act were kept in abeyance because Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho felt that road conditions had to first improve.
As humble taxpayers, people have a fundamental right to good roads and it is the State government's statutory obligation to provide roads that are free of potholes. The Bombay High Court in Mumbai maintained last year that, "It is high time that all concerned clearly understand the right to have properly maintained roads is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.”
While the government makes lavish announcements and development plans as part of its electoral outreach, it must admit to an utter failure in providing proper motorable roads to the people of Goa and hold its PWD minister accountable.