Jammu’s pathetic roads

Rajan Gandhi
With the monsoon in full bloom         so is the deterioration of Jammu roads. From main city to outskirts to adjoining villages condition is getting from bad to worse with each passing day.
Three years back when BJP-PDP government came, after much delay city roads were laid with much fanfare along with announcement that contract is  not for laying down but annual maintenance as well but as is the case of other false promises which were never kept ,this also proved to be a hollow slogan , nothing less nothing more. Road networks are not only essential to cater to the needs of travel and transport but also for socio-economic development of the state and all the more important for promotion of tourism. Enough of central projects with grants have been made available in an effort to rebuild destroyed infrastructure in the shape of roads, bridges. But like all other development projects, this also faced total neglect with the result Jammu roads are in shambles so much so that Jammu doesn’t seem to be summer capital of the state.
To understand the extent of this  road mess one must take a visit from Canal road where nullah construction is going on and on to Bus Stand  BC road where one can have camel ride on the road itself  to City Chowk to have a glimpse of filth of under construction nullah to Secretariat Chowk where all the mud of Parade Ground gets collected along with so called banned polythene bags , move further up just outside police post Parade is the stinking pool  on road itself where daily city garbage is dumped on the road itself as shutter of  JMC collection point is broken and JCBs lifting the garbage has dug the road itself resulting in stinking pit of garbage and water and same is the story of Panama Chowk. And if this is the state of roads in Jammu city itself , one can easily guess what will the status of village roads.With almost all the bazaars of city full of potholes one is pained to ask the authorities where is contract for maintenance of roads. Various funds are there to build and maintain roads: “CRF” (Central Road Fund) provided by Centre to the State Government out of the accruals of the cess @ Rs. 1.5 per litre on sale of petrol and since 2003-04. Cabinet minister Nitin Gadkari sanctioned Rs 1000 crores recently only under CRF. There are REI (Roads Of Economic Importance) like Bhaderwah Chamba road sanctioned for Inter State connectivity. Third are roads covered under Prime Minister’s Re-Construction Plan (PMRP) and our Mughal Road was constructed under this scheme only.  Fourth and most important  head is PMGSY( Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana).The PMGSY Programme was aimed to provide connectivity of all weather road to the unconnected habitation in rural areas of 1000 and plus population. Then Bharat Nirman was launched in the country in the year 2005 by GoI to develop rural areas by increasing the growth potential through strengthening rural infrastructure. This programme had six components including that of rural connectivity. As per Bharat Nirman goals, all habitations with population of more than 500 and + were to be connected by March 2009. In J&K, at that time there were 1643 such habitations (740 habitations with 1000 plus population and 903 habitations with population 500-999). This required construction of 989 roads with an aggregate length of 5800 Kms, costing Rs 4000 crores at that time but this front also like other projects missed the deadline, Kashmir due to disturbances and Jammu region due to official neglect. Currently J&K has a target of 2800 kms of 600 habitats but has been able to complete only 407 kms of 84 habitats. The implementation of this programme from Phase III onwards was entrusted to the state PWD with a separate implementation structure created for PMGSY works in J&K.  Presently there are 6 Circles headed by Superintending Engineer and 29 PIUs headed by Executive Engineer. And lastly during the year 2017-18, an allocation of Rs 1660.99 crores was available for Capex Budget which is utilized for macadamization, construction and state share for NABARD schemes, land acquisition for various projects etc.
Time  to time funds get released for all heads and there is no scarcity of funds and only thing missing is intent to deliver on ground. Such is official apathy for roads that fed up with the “repeated false promises” of the local MLA and district administration, people of Khales Kullian village in RS Pura tehsil of Jammu district repaired a road using their own resources. The villagers claimed that few years back, the PWD department took up the construction and blacktopping work on the Simbal-Kullian road and  after macadamizing the road up to Ward No. 4 in Kullian, the executing agency abandoned the work midway around 500 meter short from their village. They collected money and started the incomplete road on their own. This is not an isolated incident as village after village story is the same. The coalition government of PDP-BJP had not taken any interest in executing the developmental works in Jammu region for more than two years as the developmental works have suffered in Kashmir valley due to unrest and the government wanted to keep the works pending in Jammu too as such people of otherwise peaceful Jammu region are also made to suffer and bear the brunt of the unrest in Kashmir. Even specifications of  Jammu roads is only 50-25 mm/ 30mm  BM(Bituminous Macadam) and SDBC( Semi dense bituminous coat) whereas in Kashmir 75mm/50 mm BM and SDBC citing climate but Bhaderwah, Doda, Kishtwar and Poonch regions of the Jammu division also have almost same climate as Kashmir.
Lack of coordination between the R&B department and other civic bodies has left  stretches of roads without repair for months, leaving commuters suffering. As per the rules, agencies such as ERA, telecom companies and other civic agencies have to repair the roads dug up to carry out construction or lay water pipes, but the rules notified by the government are being neglected continuously making commuting on the city roads a nightmarish experience. The fact is that digging never stops in Jammu city and for repairs; the government agencies never follow the rules. In major cities, the civic bodies have created permanent underground ducts alongside roads for laying cables, but it hasn’t been even considered in Jammu .The dug up roads also cause lots of accidents. The authorities though blame worst condition of roads to digging by ERA and other agencies for laying sewerage pipes and cables etc but the PWD has failed to renovate even those roads also where no digging was  done by ERA or any other agency and which were damaged due to rains. For a common man, travelling on various roads in the city is becoming extremely difficult as traffic snarls at these points cause huge jams, thanks to the government apathy.
The total road length of city is 704.22 km and per km density of vehicles is 574. With the addition of more cars, tractors, motorbikes, trucks, matadors and buses condition is worsening with each passing day. About six lakh vehicles are registered in Jammu district. As per the data, the total road length in the state is 35,289 km, which include 28,393 km constructed and maintained by the Roads and Building Department while 6,896 km paved under the centrally sponsored schemes. The road surface requires renewal coat after a cycle of four to five years to prevent deterioration but due to the poor quality of work by contractors its life span is much lower. Although the road length maintained by the R&B Department has increased from 18,368 km in 2007-08 to 35,289 km during 2016-17, but the existing road network in the capital city and other towns cry for immediate attention but nobody is bothered. The total road length in Kashmir is 14,803 km, 15,920 km in Jammu province, 3,202 km in Leh district and 1,364 km in Kargil district. Of the total road length, only 20,510 km (58%) has been blacktopped while 14,779-km road is still in a poor condition or under various stages of development.
Successive governments have failed to break politicians, engineers and contractors nexus which swindles public exchequers money without any fear of law. Conviction rate of SVO throws enough light on this aspect of corruption. Few days back only shocking news appeared in  this newspaper only that  25 road projects are lying incomplete in mountainous Doda district despite booking almost 100 percent expenditure during the past eight to ten years thereby depriving the people vital road links under two major schemes of the Union Government. And this is again not an isolated incident; same is the state of affairs in every district.  Governor’s administration has just released  Rs 181 crore for the PMGSY and the Governance portal of the state government is right now is loading scores of NITs but when  these tenders will be finalized and when will the actual work begin is anybody’s guess work. Transparency should be the hallmark of all works undertaken but the official website of R&B gives no details of works after 2012. Reasons are obvious, motto is to conceal more than reveal. Public has suffered enough and as such all said and done we hope under present Governor’s rule this mess is sorted out at the earliest and regular maintenance of road networks is started on war footing after monsoon.