Ideal Road Builders has pocketed nearly Rs1,200 crore from Pune-Mumbai Expressway but what about accident prevention?

Moneylife invoked the RTI Act last fortnight to find out that Ideal Road Builders has collected about Rs1,200 crore until June 2011 since it took up the 15-year contract of security and maintenance in April 2004. But where is its commitment towards a safe journey, considering the constant episodes of fatal accidents?

While I was travelling on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway on Tuesday morning (22 November 2011), I witnessed an accident wherein an allegedly speeding car was sandwiched between two army trucks, in the ghat section. I was also taken aback when a `Swift’ car, probably at 200kmph overtaking us at that very speed from the left, cut in front of us, to get into the fast lane on our right and then swerve back towards the central lane. Both these incidents—accidents and over-speeding—happen with scary regularity every single day on the expressway.

Ideal Road Builders (IRB), the operations and maintenance agency for the Pune-Mumbai Expressway, has a contract of 15 years between 2004 and 2019. As per the 864-page contract agreement procured by this writer in April 2011, under the RTI Act, Chapter 4 (on page 145) clearly places crucial responsibilities of expressway management, on IRB.

As per the agreement, IRB’s responsibilities include upkeep of the road and traffic management. Some of its other crucial duties include patrolling, safety including accident prevention, cleanliness and fencing, ensure ban on cattle and prevent villagers from straying on to the expressway.

However, IRB has completely failed in implementing accident prevention measures and Big Brother MSRDC (Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation) has not bothered to haul up IRB. Its ‘monitoring unit’ Stupp Consultants, to which it pays Rs10 lakh per month is required to ensure that IRB lives to its commitment as per the agreement contract, but looks the other way.

As per the details I collected last fortnight through RTI, the traffic on the Expressway comprises cars as highest in numbers, followed by trucks in vehicular traffic. Whereas in 2007-2008, the number of cars passing through the Expressway were 57 lakh (57,67,023 to be precise), in 2009-2010, that number has increased to 79 lakh (79,72,271 to be precise). As against this, the number of trucks (including ordinary trucks, three axles as well as multi-axles) were 25 lakh (25,55,811) in 2007-2008 whereas in 2009-2010, it increased to 27 lakh (27,328,818).

Thus, earlier there were 2.25 cars for every truck and as of 2010 it was 2.91 cars for every truck. Most of the accidents take place between these two kinds of vehicles.

Other vehicles using the Expressway include light commercial vehicles (LCV)-9 lakh in 2007-2008 (9,53,540 to be precise) and 14 lakh (14,44,297) in 2009-2010. As for buses they were 5.2 lakh (5,28,441) in 2007-2008 and 5.8 lakh (5,83,567) in 2009-2010.
(see box for details of vehicles and toll collection)


In 2010, 443 accidents took place, of which 101 were fatal—103 people were killed.  

Chandmal Parmar, noted road accident prevention activist and chairman of Rail, Road and Traffic Management Committee of Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) says, “IRB has completely failed in the maintenance and patrolling of the Expressway. It is collecting toll without giving proper services to the people.” The toll collection is nearly Rs1,200 crore (Rs1,117.5551 crores to be precise till June 2011) as per documents provided under RTI last fortnight.

Ban trucks at night to control accidents: MCCIA

Last week, the Rail, Road and Traffic Management Committee of the Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), Pune, held a press conference to highlight the seriousness of accidents on the Expressway and gave operational solutions for the same. In a survey conducted by the MCCIA, 90% of the accidents take place between the Lonavala entry and the Khalapur food mall, which is the ghat section.

States Chandmal Parmar, chairman of the Rail, Road and Traffic Management Committee, “Considering the number of accidents, the Expressway appears to have been transformed into a death trap. The data received from Highway Police, during April, May, June and July 2011, states that 74 accidents have been registered out of which 18 were fatal, 31 serious and 48 were minor accidents, resulting in 21 deaths, 51 serious injuries and 47 minor injuries, during this period.  Consequently, the commuters had to undergo sufferings in the form of traffic jam and frustration.”

As an immediate solution, MCCIA has suggested that trucks of all types be banned between 10pm and 6am. They could either take the NH-IV (the old Pune-Mumbai highway) or then wait through the night before embarking on the Expressway journey. States Mr Parmar, “It is agonizing for car drivers to drive through the monstrous trucks and become victims of accidents. We have been advocating a ban on plying of trucks since the last two years.”

In this regard, memorandums and letters were submitted by the MCCIA to the chief minister, deputy. chief minister, guardian minister of Pune district, home minister, minister for public works (private), MLAs of Pune district and MSRDC (Pune and Mumbai).  “No one has taken serious note of our suggestion,” laments Mr Parmar.

Anant Sardeshmukh, executive director general, MCCIA, stated that the state government has recently announced a plan to have a separate bypass on Khandala Ghat section. As per the plan, the NH-IV is proposed to be converted into six lanes and the Expressway to 8 lanes. Also, the common stretch of expressway and NH 4 on the Ghat section is planned to be separated. The bypass will be taken from below the Lonavla lake, is estimated to be completed within 6-7 years and would involve expenditure to the tune of Rs4,000 crore-Rs5,000 crore.

Mr Sardeshmukh states, “It would be necessary to obtain requisite sanctions and approvals from the Union ministry for roads and forests & environments for the purpose.  Further, the work has to pass through the bottleneck of objections and agitations by environmentalists. Therefore, it is not possible to ascertain the exact time frame for completion of this project.” Also he rues that the state government, MSRDC as well as IRB are not coming out with any solutions or measures to minimize the rising number of accidents.

How about action on IRB for its negligence in brazenly taking toll from people and not giving them the safety?
(Tomorrow: Accident Spots)

(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife. She is also an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She can be reached at [email protected]).

 

 

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COMMENTS

RB Shinde

6 years ago

Every lane counter collecting Toll should be provided with additional one person appointed by Traffic regulatory body who can have the authority to send back the vehicle if not provided with the Yellow radium strips on sides & red on rear & white on front. By doing this, the vehicles asked to take U turn will never come back on such roads again as he has already burnt a hole in his pocket by trvelling distance till toll plaza and sent back. This again may create a 24 hrs business to sell the Radium strips at or before such plazas, with the help of men who sells 'Nuts', 'fruits' etc. In fact by doing this at toll plaza will be a major & strategic point for it's implementation as every vehicle touches Mumbai-Pune Expressway at some or other day. But, if such authorities given to IRB, IRB may not send back the vehicle as it will be their revenue loss. Even if IRB is authorised for implementation, IRB may add revenue by selling the radium strips(offcourse if it profits to IRB). Needless to say that IRB will definately sell them at 'Premium Rate'. Traffic Road authorities would cover at least 75% of the vehicles if implemented on almost all toll plazas statewise.

malq

7 years ago

I used to drive on the Pune-Mumbai route extensively, and once the Expressway was complete, analysed it thoroughly. If I may say so, some of the accidents, especially as you rightly identified on the Ghat sections after Khandala towards Pune, are totally preventable.

1) Over-loaded trucks headed uphill are straining every horse they can pull out of their over-loaded engines, and so in first gear, tend to veer into overtaking mode instead of moving single file. If they reduce engine speed, they will simply stall, and not be able to move ahead. Often, this blocks all the lanes as slow-moving trucks go across. Solution:- strict weighbridge checking at both ends, with no compromise, as in Gujarat.

2) Downhill brake testing and escape routes on the side, of the sort seen worldwide, at reasonable intervals, a marked short road peeling off from the downhill stretch, which goes slightly uphill - where a truck can head into if brakes fail. This concept has been used succesfully on the Lahore - Islamabad Expressway, where user conditions are the same.

3) Alcohol testing at the toll booths, based on profiling as well as specially on weekends and holidays, and this needs to include all the so-called VIP vehicles too.

4) The number of cars which appear to be flying red beacons or party flags is about the highest in the country on this road. Delhi Government has shown the way by clamping down hard on this menace, and under the MVA, so can the Maharashtra Government.

These are just a few of the steps that could be taken. For the rest, best of luck!! Thank you for this article.

rgds/VM


REPLY

Vinita

In Reply to malq 7 years ago

yes perfectly agree with all your points. I saw what you said in no.2 in the USA - v impressive. The IRB is busy collecting toll money and no monitoring is done of its toll collection by MSRDC's toll monitoring unit so we are forced to believe the figures IRB gives of its toll collection and as for safety and accident prevention which it MUST implement under the contract agreement, it hell cares and MSRDC is not raising this issue with it sternly

ramchandran

7 years ago

it will help if statistics are published as to how many acidents have occurred since the date of contract to IRB . Any maintenance contract must have measures to ensure that the contractor is adhering to his deliverables.

REPLY

Vinita

In Reply to ramchandran 7 years ago

yes i have asked for this information - should get it soon

PFC publishes investor data on the web, raising privacy concerns

PFC has published names, complete addresses, telephone or mobile numbers and email IDs of around 1.2 lakh individuals, which raises several questions of privacy and investor protection

In yet another instance that proves the government and its units are insensitive to issues of transparency and privacy, Power Finance Corp (PFC) has published complete data of its investors on the web. This too when, concerns are being raised about the government's unique identification (UID) program that not only collects detailed information, but also takes biometric data like iris and finger scans. This UID data is accessible for anyone who is associated with the UID Authority of India (UIDAI) as registrar.

In a stunning case of placing private data out in the public domain PFC, which collected money from investors for its infrastructure bonds, has published names, addresses, telephone or mobile numbers and email IDs of around 1.2 lakh individuals. The revelation of this data has angered several investors. "I was not aware of my personal data being uploaded on the website. This is a clear violation of my privacy," says a Mumbai-based investor.

This is surprising, especially when last year Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee rejected a proposal from National Intelligence Grid (NatGrid) to access details of all bank accounts. Mr Mukherjee, in a hand written note, had warned that intrusion into the privacy of bank depositors will discredit the banking system and people will start using other modes for securing their funds.

However, either PFC is not aware of the Finance Minister’s opinion or does not understand the difference between transparency in its operations and violating personal privacy.

Currently, the UIDAI is under heavy criticism on privacy issues, use of biometrics and the incentives being paid for enrolling more residents. Many voices have been raised against the forceful implementation of the UID project, with most objections focused on concerns over privacy. Advocate and activist Kamayani Bali Mahabal, who started petitioning Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh against UID scheme or Aadhaar, said, "Privacy law is still being made, and until it is in place, the UIDAI should not be doing what it is, and it certainly cannot be allowed to share information as it proposes to do under the 'information consent' clause in its form."

Although, the Constitution does not explicitly specify privacy rights, the Supreme Court in a landmark judgement (Unni Krishnan, J.P & Ors. Etc., versus State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors,) on 4 February 1993, had ruled that "This Court has held that several un-enumerated rights fall within Article (21) since personal liberty is of widest amplitude."

We sent a mail to PFC officials, who assured us that the mail has been forwarded to concerned department and they will act upon the issue at the earliest.

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COMMENTS

Rajiv

7 years ago

Can someone give the URL where this data exists ?

R Nandy

7 years ago

Wonderful! The PFC data base is almost perfect. It only doesn't have the date of birth and marital status
of the Bond Holders. Those can easily be acquired by calling the Bond Holder and telling them that you are calling from PFC and gain their confidence by stating their PAN number. And, bingo you have the Date of birth. Please don't blame me for writing this,any identity thief knows this. :)

UID(Aadhar) is another wonderful project which is going on. It will institutionalize identity theft in India. Last week I was in the HAL II post office in Bangalore. The primitive way the enrollment was being handled with huge stacks of address/id proofs collected is baffling. No doubt a lot of them will end up being used in opening of new bank accounts to be used as money mules.

@Indira
PFC will not do anything unless you cause them a lot of pain either by lodging a FIR against the head or a PIL. And, Arora does have a point

indira jain

7 years ago

The number of comments to this post so far show the level of interest in privacy as an issue :-) 2 from arora , on from moneylife!

Find it hard to agree with the savage nastiness of Arora. As a reader, I am happy Moneylife has named names.
Also, as a tech person, I think it would take a few seconds for PFC's webmaster to disable the link. So why should it be Moneylife's responsibility not to name names?
Maybe Arora is from PFC and hence the irrational anger??
Glad she has rested her case and hopefully will keep it that way!
lage raho moneylife

REPLY

Hemant Bhatia

In Reply to indira jain 7 years ago

I agree with Arora & it is childish to say that if you disagree with ML you are from PFC. I also rest my case & you be glad again.

Alisha Arora

7 years ago

ML should have reported this matter responsibly, citing "a major sectoral finance company has violated shareholder privacy", instead of revealing the exact name of the company. Such kind of reportage, leads to readers and surfers, to visit the website, on your prompting.

PFC has erred greatly but ML has multiplied the damage insensibly.

Poor reporting standards at ML; sensationalism overtaking pragmatism.

Web editorial maturity was conspicuous by its absence, in this case.

REPLY

MLD

In Reply to Alisha Arora 7 years ago

We strongly disagree. without a name the report would have been meaningless and would have seen no action at all for the next few years!!!
As a responsible magazine, we called the PRO and urged him to respond. We hoped they would disable the link before we went public with the story. We told them we are doing public. If the company didn't wake up even then, you cannot hold us accountable.
If you want expemplary action, then dont tell us not to expose wrongdoing, instead file a complaint and ensure exemplary punishment for PFC so that it jolts others.

Alisha Arora

In Reply to MLD 7 years ago

Extent of damage was amplified by irresponsible reporting, when the objective was to protect the privacy of the undermined investors, and not to induce further damage.

Poor logic furnished with defiant denial of responsibility towards privacy of those affected juxtaposed with urge to do expose on errant company!

Public interest is undermined by corporate carelessness enlarged by journalistic blunder.

Whenever internet credit card data is exposed, the reputed international news reporting is done not by propagating the data leakage but just the news of it after ensuring blocking the leakage, with embargo till it is secured.

Jumping the gun might be for journalistic fun devoid of public interest principles !

Rest my case, no more posts to drive home the point, if you are determined to miss it :-(

Rambabu Shastri

7 years ago

Data privacy is only the privilege of the foreign national whose data gets processed by BPOs. The BPOs and Nasscomm have set up a DSCI organization that ensures they have good standards and practices to protect data. However, these bodies or standards have little or no focus on the data of Indian citizens. After all, there are so many of us, that a leakage of information of about a lakh or so individuals, does not make any difference on percentages of the whole population. The leakage is not just the PFC, but also the PCMC, MSEDL MTNL and other bodies who have taken to e-commerce and web-facing applications without any standards, directions or skills on information security. The situation will take ages to remediate in India and till then, the leakage of about 1 lakh customers information by the PFC is miniscule and too trivial to be of any consequence. The UIDAI is also being scuttled as there are ulterior political motives to ensure it does not happen.

Revised tatkal booking scheme is passenger friendly say experts

The Railways have reduced tatkal booking period to one day before the journey and also barred agents from booking tickets on the Internet from 8am to 10am

The Indian Railways have revised the Tatkal (urgent ticket booking) scheme, making it more ‘passenger-friendly’ by reducing the advance booking time to one day, excluding the journey date, from the earlier two days. The Railways also increased the booking time by one hour to 8am to 10am and has barred agents from booking tickets under the tatkal scheme over the Internet. The changes came into existence from Monday.

According to experts, these changes have been introduced following passengers’ complaints of not being able to book tatkal tickets mainly due to touts and agents who would book all the tickets immediately after the window was opened.

Passenger organisations have welcomed this move. Madhu Kotain, president, Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, told Moneylife, that, “Tatkal was meant for emergency journeys. There is no logic in allowing booking such tickets three days prior to the journey. These new changes would benefit passengers  and curtail mischief of agents.”

The revised system will permit the passengers, to book maximum four tickets per PNR and tickets will be issued on producing identity proofs, from any one of the eight points mentioned by the Railways.

“The details of the identity proof will be captured by the system and indicated on the reserved tickets as well on the reservation chart. It will not be mandatory for the passenger(s) to go to the counter to book the Tatkal ticket, however, the proof will have to be sent in the aforementioned manner,” the Railway said in a statement.

Further there would be no refund given on the cancellation of confirmed Tatkal tickets, expect if such cancellation is due to cancellation of trains/late running of trains for more than 3 hours. However in case of partially confirmed tickets, refund will be given for waiting list passenger.

Subash Gupta, president, Mumbai Yatri Sangh, says, “Though the time has been reduced to one day, it will at least ensure that tickets can be booked. Earlier it was impossible to book the tickets due to agents’ mischief. These touts used to book tickets and then sell it at inflated prices. Overall these new rules are passenger friendly.”

The Railways say that “during the journey, the passenger, whose identity card number has been indicated on the ticket, will have to produce original proof of identity indicated on the ticket, failing which all the passengers booked on the ticket shall be treated as travelling without ticket and charged accordingly.”

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COMMENTS

gopinath prabhu

7 years ago

I think the move of Railway Ministry is passenger unfriendly. Rather than addressing the root cause it is trying to solve the proximity cause.

How can I be denied my refund if I am not travelling. While Railways is free to charge me 100% of tatkal fees as cancellation charges, it is bound to refund me regular travel charges as I have not travelled.

The time limit extension barring agents is also unethical. What about people who do not have internet and live in places where there are no railway offices. How do they book tatkal ticket ?

A very simple and ideal solution would be making it mandatory for all passengers to carry a proof of identity (for tatkal and normal booking) which will curb impersonation. If curbing 1 hour could not curb impersonation how can 2 hours curb it ?

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