The Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which was the one of the first showpieces of modern India’s infrastructure development, has degenerated into a regular highway. Here are some pictures shot over one trip, of the mess that the Expressway has become. Instead of fixing this, bureaucrats are trying to impose speed limits to reduce accidents even as the RTO, police and politically-connected IRB Infrastructure, which is responsible for maintenance and toll collection, are interested in just increasing the toll rates
The Mumbai-Pune Expressway was supposed to be a Western-style autobahn, barricaded on either side to prevent intrusion and allow vehicles to move fast between two points. Fully completed in 2002, under the supervision of the energetic RC Sinha, when Nitin Gadkari was the PWD minister in the BJP-Shiv Sena run Maharashtra government, it has in fact degenerated into a regular highway in which anyone come in and can walk along the road, even across the expressway, stop their cars, ride their two wheelers and of course where educated men can indulge in their national civic duty—relieve themselves on the roadside. Then there are the trucks—so dilapidated that they cannot drive over 30 kilometres per hour (kmph) and are allowed to operate without tail lights or reflectors, endangering other drivers, especially since they don’t even know the rules of expressway driving.
All these are supposed to be offences. As you enter the Expressway, a large signage tells you all the dos and don’ts. But these rules are flouted openly, in broad daylight. Here is the evidence. We took these pictures in the course of a single trip from Mumbai to Pune. See for yourself, how the Expressway is being used.
Even as the toll company that runs the Expressway, IRB Infrastructure, is unable to fix the mess, there is a clamour for strictly enforcing the speed limit to 80kmph, which was arbitrarily fixed by another bureaucrat to cover up the failure to educate drivers or police. In a latest move, drivers those who cover 49.5km distance between the two toll plazas (Khalapur-Mumbai end-and Urse-Pune end) in less than 30 minutes will be fined Rs200 for over-speeding. Over 300 drivers were fined for over-speeding and other traffic violations on the Expressway on Tuesday. This will be in addition to action taken against over-speeding using speed guns. The zealousness of the government in imposing speed limits on the Expressway has a bureaucratic ‘solution’ to accidents which is clearly designed to divert the attention from the mess that the Expressway has become.
Since the completion of the Expressway, there has been persistent campaign to dub the Expressway as being dangerously accident-prone. The objective is the same: Divert attention from increasing higher toll charges, handover of the Express way to a politically-connected business family, non-completion of developments that were to generate additional revenue and make the Expressway viable.
The fact is that the Mumbai-Pune Expressway was designed for speeds of well over 120 kmph. But in the early days when the MSRDC (Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation) could not stop people from walking on to the road to gawk at traffic (despite barbed wire barriers all along the length of the Expressway) a MSRDC chief came up with the brilliant bureaucratic idea of introducing a speed limit of 80 kmph. Going by what we see on the Expressway, it did nothing to reduce accidents. In any case, most accidents involve trucks which never seem to go beyond 30kmph when loaded.
Neither the government, nor the toll company has worked to control drunken drivers, to check overloaded trucks winding up at a snail’s pace and blocking traffic and driving without proper lights in the night. After every accident, the media get sucked into a discussion of speed limits and never on corruption, gross indiscipline and rule breaking, as the pictures show.
All these can be fixed if corrupt cops and government officials make the effort to check the vehicles and install a weigh-bridge before the Expressway to disallow drunk drivers, overloaded trucks and those which are so obviously falling apart and have no lights. Instead, they accept a bribe and wave them on. Neither the babus nor the cops nor politicians talk about this because the regular hafta collection from the trucking industry is passed all the way to the top. Meanwhile, the Expressway gets messier and messier and nobody is accountable.
Specific orders from the MCD commissioner to transfer two officials were not followed and the two officials were re-instated in the same position. The CIC then ordered the additional commissioner to conduct an enquiry and submit a report in this matter. This is the 30th in a series of important judgements given by former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi that can be used or quoted in an RTI application
Taking a serious note of tampering with records by officials, the Central Information Commission (CIC) asked the additional commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to conduct an enquiry and submit a report to the Commission. While giving this important judgement, Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner expressed anguish over the manner in which the officials were re-instated ignoring an order from the municipal commissioner.
“The Additional Commissioner (CA-cum-FA), Mrs T Tonsing Prasad is directed to enquire into this and make a report of how Shri Jai Dayal and Suresh Yadav have been re-instated in the same position which a municipal commissioner had ordered them to be transferred from," the CIC said in its order issued on 24 March 2009.
Delhi resident Harish Kumar, on 28 July 2008 sought information about complaints filed by him against Suresh Kumar, upper division clerk (UDC) in the MCD, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He sought the following information...
1. Furnish diary numbers and photocopies of the complaints written to the then assistant commissioner, SPZ by Mr Harish Kumar against Mr Suresh Kumar since 2003 to 2008.
2. Furnish diary numbers and certified copies with their dates of the complaints written to any of the officer, commissioner, organization, ministry in relation to Mr Suresh Kumar.
There was no mention of any reply provided by the Public Information Officer (PIO). Mr Kumar then filed first appeal before the First Appellate Authority (FAA). The FAA, while disposing off the appeal, directed the PIO to provide requisite information as per record within seven working days.
Not satisfied with the reply, Mr Kumar then filed second appeal before the CIC. He also produced an order signed by the Commissioner of MCD on 3 June 2003. The order states that, “A perusal of the interim report submitted by the Vigilance Department reveals that the complicity of Shri Jai Dayal and Suresh Yadav, Licensing Inspectors (LIs), against whom prima-facie delinquency is in existence, in respect of above work, cannot be ignored. Hence, as recommended at sl No2, additional commissioner (engg) may be requested to shift both the above officials to non-sensitive positions immediately, to prevent any tampering with records. They should also not to be posted in any of the departments in Sadar Paharganj Zone.”
“Since the allegations levied against the above officials by the complainant are specific and serious in nature, I would like the investigation proceedings in the instant matter to be completed in a time bound manner and all guilty be brought to book. The investigation report should be submitted to the undersigned,” the order said.
Mr Gandhi said in spite of this the PIO confirmed that both the guilty were working in the same position since they have been retransferred to the sensitive positions by some unknown forces. “It appears from this that even a municipal commissioner’s order recording tampering with records by officials is a meaningless exercise and a head clerk and UDC have the power the to nullify the order of the municipal commissioner,” he said.
The Commission then directed the additional commissioner of MCD to enquire into the matter and make a report on how both, Mr Dayal and Mr Yadav have been re-instated in the same position. The CIC said, “The report will also elucidate on whether any further inquiry or investigations have been carried out against these officers which either established their innocence or guilt. This report will be submitted to the Commission before 15 April 2009.”
CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION
Decision No. CIC/SG/A/2008/00083/2392
Appeal No. CIC/SG/A/2008/00083
Appellant : Harish Kumar
Respondent : Assistant Commissioner &
Public Information Officer
Municipal Corporation of Delhi
Sadar Pahar Ganj Zone,
Idgah Road, Opp. Thana Sadar Bazar,
Delhi - 110006
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