Corrupt Officials & Contractors


For dear life, when will we break the civic works nexus?

Broken walls, Sinking Roads, Leaking Pipes

Change the names…. Same story in all the cities.

H S BALRAM

It’s an open secret that unscrupulous contractors, in collusion with corrupt officials, fleece civic bodies by doing shoddy work and siphoning off taxpayers’ money. Every city in India has fallen prey to this dangerous nexus. Sadly, no stern measures are taken to eliminate the menace. Result:

Infrastructure remains poor, though funds are made available.

Bangalore, India’s IT capital, is high on this list. Badly-maintained roads, chaotic traffic, choked sewage and rainwater drains, missing footpaths, very few subways or skywalks for pedestrians, inadequate parking facility, acute power and water shortage, uncleared garbage, decreasing green cover and slow-moving development works, are the bane of this once peaceful and beautiful city.

On a rainy day recently, a wall built by one such contractor collapsed on a 17-year-old girl student, Sanjana Singh, who was walking home after attending tuition classes in the heart of Bangalore. She was buried under tonnes of debris. Her shouts and mobile calls failed to elicit response. She breathed her last before relief could arrive an hour or so later.

The city was shocked. Her family was shattered. Netas made customary calls to her house and offered compensation. Different inquiries were ordered.

The needle of suspicion pointed towards newly-elected corporator Munirathna. He was a contractor for civic works in that locality before he moved up the ladder. The portion that collapsed had been erected on a pipe without following norms. Munirathna was quick to deny his role.

When pressure built up, he admitted he had constructed only a part of the wall. The rest was built by a sub-contractor. He also threw a challenge: “I will resign the moment I am found guilty by an inquiry committee. I will give Rs 1 crore to Sanjana’s parents as compensation.”

Guess what the key findings of the first inquiry report are? Both Munirathna and sub-contractor Humesh Kumar are responsible for poor construction of the wall. Cement-sand-jelly stones ratio, which has to be 1:4:8 as per engineering practices, wasn’t maintained. Cement ratio was not only less but of poor quality.

No structural design and blueprint, particularly for the portion built on a pipe, was prepared. No inspection and supervision of the work. Weep holes that help water flow from one side of the wall to the other were missing.

Construction of a mandatory drain beside the wall to help water flow wasn’t done.
The estimated cost of widening of the Bellary Road, which necessitated reconstruction of the wall, was initially Rs 12.72 crore. This was increased to Rs 17 crore and then to Rs 29.55 crore, without government approval.

The findings are shocking. Not only were norms violated blatantly, but the corporation was cheated of funds. And the cornered corporator only says: “I will resign only if I am proven guilty by the court of law.

Now, a technical committee has given this report. The Lokayukta will also give its report. Police will also come up with their report. To which report should I respond?” So, no resignation. No compensation of Rs 1 cr to Sanjana’s parents as promised. The mayor says he has blacklisted both the contractors and written to the CM to initiate steps to force Munirathna step down as corporator. What about officials who connived with them or looked the other way? No action.

The public is skeptical. They fear the contractors will be back to their bad old ways, once the pressure eases. Just like hordes of corrupt officials trapped by Karnataka’s highly-proactive Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde. After a brief suspension period, these officials get back to their jobs, sometimes with a promotion. Only because he has no powers to initiate prosecution.

Only the other day, chief minister B S Yeddyurappa had boasted of cutting red tape and laying the red carpet to investors. If he is keen on turning words into action, he must start with the civic bodies.

Nothing moves here till the palms are greased. He must break the contractor-official nexus.

NRI: St Louis Accident Case settled in court


This is an extract from a blog of The Law Office of Elliot S. Schlissel:

Police Officer Becomes Intoxicated and Crashes

– Wrongful Death Suit Settled

May 12, 2010

Police officer Christine L. Miller was off duty. She drove some friends to O’Leary’s Bar and Restaurant. Christine was an officer in the Sunset Hills Police Department.

Christine was served numerous drinks at O’Leary’s Bar. After consuming “a high quantity” of alcohol Christine got in her car to drive home. Christine drove her Mitsubishi east in the west bound lane of Darity Ferry Road which caused an accident with another vehicle. Four young people were killed and one was injured in the traffic accident. Christine has been charged with four counts of first degree involuntary manslaughter plus one count of second degree assault. She is currently on an unpaid suspension from the Sunset Hills Police Department.

The civil lawsuit which was filed shortly after the criminal charges were brought against Christine was settled for $2.25 million. At the time of the crash Christine’s blood alcohol level was 0.169. The threshold for driving while intoxicated was .08%.

The parents of the victims sued both Christine and O’Leary’s Bar and Restaurant.

They claimed that the employees of the restaurant knew that Christine was intoxicated and did not prevent her from driving home or assist her in calling a taxi cab. The civil lawsuit also claimed the bar workers served Miller alcoholic beverages even though her speech was slurred and her gaze was unsteady.

BRT in Delhi:Worsening Mess


No amount of public outcry, suffering and  deaths seem to have any effect on the Delhi Government, run by Shiela Dixit, who otherwise has a positive image.

The Lieut Governor Tejinder Khanna has not been able to stop the worsening mess, which is spiralling out of control with another segment (Defence colony)  being   being added to the already existing chaotic Chirag Dilli segment.


BRT crawl: 1km in 30 minutes

Corridor Gets More Chaotic At Chirag Dilli Crossing, But No Relief In Sight

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

New Delhi: Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) continues to be a dreaded word for Delhiites. A good two years after trial runs were started on the pilot corridor, commuters still take 20-30 minutes to cross the brief stretch of about 1 km between Chirag Dilli and Pushp Vihar crossings. With four malls and multiplexes, three major hospitals, a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) sports complex and a proposed district court, the volume of traffic coming onto BRT from Press Enclave Road is only going to increase, aggravating the jams.

Even as the jams persist, none of the solutions promised to decongest the stretch, including a clover leaf flyover at Chirag Dilli, intelligent signalling, parking lots, foot overbridges and road widening has happened on ground. The result: Those who commute in private vehicles continue to have a harrowing experience.

‘‘Even on Sundays when all the roads are empty, there is a jam on the Chirag Dilli crossing on BRT. I take anything between 20-30 minutes to cross this stretch. This has only become worse with the malls opening in Saket,’’ said Prerna Gandhi, a resident of Amar Colony.

What makes it worse is that a majority of south Delhi residents depend on hospitals on Press Enclave Road for healthcare. With the only access to the stretch provided through this part of BRT, reaching a hospital has also become a pain.

‘‘There aren’t any big hospitals in the area apart from Moolchand, which is always crowded. But reaching any of the hospitals on Press Enclave Road is a huge pain. I was taking my father there for a checkup and ended up spending a good 35 minutes just to cover the 2-3 km stretch,’’ said Amit Dhingra, a resident of Greater Kailash-II.

Commuters feel it is even more frustrating to see an empty bus lane on the side, even as the entire road, cycle track and even footpath are bursting at their seams with vehicles and pedestrians.
‘‘Every morning, there are bikes on the cycle lane, forcing cyclists onto the footpaths and people like us have no space to walk. I have to brave all the traffic just to reach the Chirag Dilli bus stop everyday,’’ said Shekhar Jain, a resident of Shiekh Sarai.

Added businessman Hitesh Sharma: ‘‘The BRT is a nuisance. I travel to Pushp Vihar frequently, and the morning traffic here crawls, literally. If a car breaks down or there is a minor accident, that means chaos. Even the footpaths are taken over by vehicles.’’ The solutions to the jams between Chirag Dilli and Pushp Vihar crossings, which were proposed by the government when lane segregation was enforced on the corridor two years ago, are yet to see the light of day.

Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMMTS), which is operating the corridor, was supposed to put up intelligent signals to bring down waiting time at the Chirag Dilli crossing. But the project was recently approved and installation has just begun.

The other solution, construction of a grade separator at Chirag Dilli to reduce waiting time, i still in the planning stage. According to officials, the location and final design have been finalised and submitted to Delhi Development Authority (DDA)’s technical committee for approval. But there are no plans to start construction anytime soon.

In a desperate bid to make BRT work, the government had proposed construction of parking lots where people can leave their cars and use BRT and foot overbridges in the corridor. But even these are not ready for use. ‘‘As for now, it has been put on the backburner till the Commonwealth Games. The unofficial direction seemingly is to maintain status quo on the corridor,’’ said a senior official, who pleaded anonymity.

Andher Nagari: Delhi Roads are Most Dangerous


Extracts from TOI and others

Capital shame

T HAT the national capital has come out as the most dangerous city in India as far as pedestrians are concerned will not surprise its residents.

A National Crime Records Bureau report says as many as 589 pedestrians were crushed to death on Delhi’s roads in 2008. In all, pedestrian deaths accounted for nearly 30 per cent of road casualties in Delhi, a rate four times the national average of 8.7 per cent.

This is a matter of shame for the national capital which should be setting standards for other cities in India to follow. And while there is no denying that the staggering number of vehicles on Delhi’s roads — nearly 4.5 million in March 2008, more than the figure for Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai put together — is partly responsible, the role of infringement of traffic regulations, rash and drunken driving and the step- motherly treatment meted out to pedestrians cannot be played down either.

For, let’s accept it: the pedestrian is a rather lowly creature on Delhi’s roads.

Cities in developed countries may set aside pathways for safe walking but Delhi’s roads— broad in comparison to our other metros— make no such provision.

Even the zebra crossings don’t function, with drivers refusing to grant pedestrians the right of way. There are few, if any, signaled pedestrian crossovers. Footpaths which pedestrians can use are often encroached upon by vehicles and vendors.

There aren’t enough foot overbridges and subways. In any case, the subways, being unsafe and unclean, are not used by most people, especially women.

What is needed is better infrastructure for pedestrians, tighter regulation of traffic and public awareness about the need for road safety.

Man rides into 9inch-deep pothole, fractures hands

Stuti Agarwal | TNN


New Delhi: In yet another incident that points to persistent callousness on the part of civic agencies, a 57-year-old man had both his hands fractured as the two-wheeler he was riding tumbled over a 9inch-deep pothole on the Shakarpur Master Block road in east Delhi.

The accident took place around 11.35pm on Saturday in front of Agarwal Dharamshala in Vyast Guru Angad Nagar when J P Sharma, manager of Riverside Club in Mayur Vihar I, was returning to his Laxmi Nagar residence after work.

Locals say in the absence of any repair of the large number of potholes dotting the stretch, such accidents have become common these days. According to Sharma, he fell on the road and couldn’t even move to a side as a result of the injuries. ‘‘I was lying in the middle of the road and saw an Innova speeding towards me.

Fortunately, the driver noticed me and stopped the car before running me over,’’ said Sharma, who suffered two fractures in his right hand, a minor one in his left hand besides getting bruises on his knees.

A few people from the nearby dharamshala offered help by taking him inside and informed his family. Sharma’s youngest son, Vishal (33), rushed to the dharamshala and carried him to a private clinic where he was given painkillers. The next day morning Sharma was taken for an x-ray. His left-hand injuries are reportedly serious and will take over a month to heal as Sharma already has had an iron rod fitted in the hand since he met with an accident two years back.

‘‘I am well aware of those potholes as I take that route every day. But somehow I did not notice this one in time. Now I am fully dependent on my wife and can’t even take the medicines myself,’’ he said.

The road comes under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. When contacted, the agency’s PRO, Deep Mathur said, ‘‘We are not aware of any such incident, so we cannot comment on it.’’

Curiously, the 9inch-deep pothole was filled with loose mud just two days after Sharma’s accident.
While construction material for repair of the road is lying at the site, no work has yet begun. Sharma, who is also the president of Bhartiya Brahman Manch, Delhi, believes the accident happened because of ‘‘the negligence of the contractor’’.
toireporter@timesgroup.com

IN BAD SHAPE: J P Sharma (top) was injured when his scooter fell into one of the many potholes on Shakarpur Master Block road

RTO Delhi:Get driving licence from any city RTO


Get driving licence from any city RTO

A positive step. It will be possible to go to an RTO nearer to you now.

However will it bring down the harassment at the RTO offices, play of touts or graft?

Megha Suri | TNN

New Delhi: In about 10 days’ time, you will be able to get a driving licence issued from any of the 13 regional transport offices (RTOs) in Delhi, irrespective of where you stay in the capital. To bring down levels of corruption, all RTOs and the transport department unit at Burari are being interlinked and all records transferred to a central server.

Work on the project is nearing completion, after which the transport department will start trial runs. Interlinked RTOs would free the applicants from the current restriction of having to go to only the transport office which serves their area of residence.

NEW LICENSING FACILITY IN 10 DAYS To check graft, records being transferred to central server
New Delhi: To bring down levels of corruption, all RTOs and the transport department unit at Burari are being interlinked and all records transferred to a central server.
Though licence-seekers will now be free to apply at any RTO, they will need to complete all formalities — like the driving test for learners licence, payment of fees, final road test for permanent licence and the printing of the smart card — at the same RTO.

The driving licence will subsequently be delivered by courier to the applicant’s permanent address. Details of new licences etc, will get uploaded onto the centralized database, real time.

The department is also in the process of creating a centralized pool of information so that all records of present licence holders can be accessed by officials from any RTO. To get the new facility rolling, the transport department is now in the final stages of linking the existing databases of all the 13 RTOs and the Burari unit.
Official said there was a problem at the Sarai Kale Khan RTO, where the linking was stuck due to technical difficulties.

But the matter has been sorted out and even this RTO will be connected to the central server in 2-3 days. The ongoing festive season has caused some delays, but the new facility is expected to be in place in 10 days.

‘‘The new centralized system is being put in place to bring about more transparency in the process. We are going to launch a massive public awareness campaign to tell people about it. This way, the government will ensure that it doesn’t get sabotaged. The dummy run will start in 10 days and the teething troubles will be sorted out at the earliest,’’ said R K Verma, transport commissioner.

Another major step being taken is the weeding out of touts at RTOs who stamp medical certificates mandatory for every application for a driving licence. A cabinet note has been sent by the department which proposes that such medical certificates will be issued only by government hospitals and dispensaries.

At present, any registered medical practitioner can certify whether an applicant is fit to drive or not. Recently, the government had also started online tracking of applications for driving licences, which has got a good response from applicants.

Delhi Traffic Lights: Some Hope?


New Picture (72)Harassed citizens of Delhi have to endure unending traffic snarls due to poor infrastructure made worse by bad maintenance of roads, haphazard dumping of earthwork, metal rods and mulba by contractors working on various projects under the ‘watchful eyes ‘ of MCD, DDA, NDMC.

Traffic lights are almost always on a blink, adding to chaos.

The traffic police do pitch in when the traffic lights are not working, (sometimes for months on end, as in Vasant Kunj, GK I etc).

Why are the traffic lights not working? Who is answerable for the lakhs of litres of fuel wasted by the hundreds of cars, motor cycles , scooters and trucks caught in jams due to non functional traffic lights?

At last the Delhi police is promising some action. But will it deliver?

Traffic signals: Light at the end of tunnel

Upkeep Tenders Invited, Fines For Slackness

Megha Suri | TNN

New Delhi: After months of braving chaos at intersections where traffic signals have stopped working — an average of 90 across the city — there is finally respite. Delhi traffic police has invited a tender for maintenance of signals and blinkers, and this time, the contract includes stringent penalty clauses for non-performance. The contract of the existing companies end in the first week of October.

The tender, published on August 29, is for maintenance of 725 traffic signals and 424 blinkers for the next two years. It will also cover installation of new signals and blinkers. As for the 220 signals which are going to be fitted with intelligent traffic signals (ITS) before the Commonwealth Games, the agreement with the contractors will be amended to include maintenance of them as well.

After the recent downpours, over 130 traffic signals stopped working in the city, leading to complete chaos. The traffic police have now redone the contract clauses to prevent a repeat of the present chaos once the new contracts come into effect. The new agreement sets a time frame for repair of signals — all minor fault should be rectified within six hours of receipt of complaints while all major repairs and replacement work will be carried out within two days.

If any traffic signal remains non-functional for over five days, the police will not pay maintenance charge for that signal. Thereafter, a penalty of Rs 500 will be charged. Even after a work contract is awarded, delays will not be tolerated. The contractor will have to finish the assigned work within a stipulated time. Delays will call for a penalty of 10% of total bill for first 7 days and 20% thereafter.

The new contract will have a clause to ensure that contractors are not paid for cable faults and damages to controllers due to short circuits. They will be asked to fit good quality auto cut devices.

The traffic police will regularly review performance of contractors and will terminate contracts and even blacklist companies if performance is not up to the mark. For monitoring, the contractor will have to install a computerised fault monitoring system.

Said S N Shrivastava, joint commissioner of police (traffic): ‘‘We are trying to improve functioning of traffic signals and ensure monitoring. The penalty clauses in the contract have been made stringent.’’

Getting tough with contractors
Total no. of signals | 725 Total no. of blinkers | 424 No. of posts to be fitted with intelligent traffic signals | 220 No. of signals not working daily | 90 (avg) No. of signals not working after heavy rain | 130 (avg)

Non-functional signals
No maintenance charge will be paid for signals or blinkers which are not working for over 5 days. Thereafter, a penalty of Rs 500 per day will be charged

Blacklisting for shoddy work
The traffic police will regularly review performance of contractors. The contract can be cancelled and the firm blacklisted if work is not up to the mark

Higher penalties for delayed repairs
The contractor will have to finish assigned work in stipulated time. Delays will call for a penalty of 10% of total bill for first 7 days and 20% thereafter

No more cable faults
The contractor will not be paid for cable faults, the most common justification for non-functional signals. They have been asked to fit good quality auto-cut devices to prevent short-circuits

Fault monitoring system
Contractor need to install a computerized fault monitoring system within 15 days that will automatically generate a circle-wise daily activity report for faulty signals & blinkers

Andher Nagari: Delhi’s death traps courtesy MCD


DELHI DITCHED

Sinking feeling in civic void

New Picture (70)

TOI team alerts city on more open pits and manholes but civic agencies seem to be faltering on their promise of covering the gaping holes by today

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

The TOI campaign against uncovered pits and manholes in the city seems to have stirred civic agencies into action. After TOI published the photograph of an open drain in Rajouri Garden on Thursday, the MCD promptly placed precast slabs on the drain. The civic agency had earlier too reacted to a TOI report and covered open drains and manholes in Shahdara and ITO.

Deputy commissioner, west zone, S C Kohli, said the drain cover had been broken by the sanitation department during desilting work on Wednesday but precast slabs were put back on Thursday.

‘‘The sanitation department and all executive engineers have been directed to ensure that all dug-up spaces in their wards are properly barricaded to prevent accidents and inconvenience to the public. The drain, of which a picture was published in TOI on Thursday, had been left open after its cover was broken during desilting,’’ said Kohli.

However, the civic agency was unable to provide information on the status of other gaping holes which too had featured in TOI. Though MCD had stated on Wednesday that all open pits and manholes under its jurisdiction would be covered and under-construction sites properly barricaded by Friday — a fact admitted by director, press and information, Deep Mathur — more open pits and manholes were discovered by TOI on Thursday. MCD was unable to respond to our queries on this matter.

Meanwhile, Vikas Marg again emerged as a sore point. Picture of an open pit at Vikas Marg had been published on Wednesday and PWD officials had claimed that all other troublespots would be taken care of immediately. However, two new spots were found along this stretch on Thursday.

Said a senior PWD official: ‘‘The stretch in question has been handed over to DMRC. We spoke to the chief engineer, DMRC, and were assured that corrective action would be taken.’’

Meanwhile, residents of Chandni Chowk claimed that open drains and sewers were still a problem in their area with no agency taking any action to ensure safety measures. Said Sanjay Bharghav, secretary of Chandni Chowk traders association: ‘‘Delhi Jal Board is carrying out deep sewer work along the central verge in main Chandni Chowk.

Besides a strip put by them as a safety measure, the open pits, which are very deep, are not barricaded. When it rains, these pits get filled with water making it very difficult to assess the exact depth of the pit.’’

New Picture (71)