It was on an assignment of leading a Value Creation workshop for newly hired Charted Accountants for a large Multinational company. The venue was Hazira an industrial township near Surat, Gujarat. An one hour drive via large townships, industrial hubs and companies like NTPC, ONGC, IOCL, Reliance, L&T, ESSAR, ADANI and many other multi-billion dollar infrastructures and companies.
I had heard about Surat being a very clean city of India and well maintained infrastructure. A city known for its Textile, Diamond manufacturing & Food. My journey to Hazira was very interesting where I took multiple modes of transport to reach there other than water; Cab to airport, flight to Mumbai from Bangalore, another cab to railway station, Train to Surat from Mumbai of 4 hours, and finally one hour of cab to Hazira from Surat station. In this process of travel, I could see an interesting part of West and North-West of India. The journey with thousands of fellow travelers gave me an interesting insight into different culture, life styles, needs, orientations, beliefs and their life journeys to some extent.
I could also see road and other infrastructure of India as I pass through these cities and states. Being focused on roads and specifically Potholes, I could see thousands of people having trouble commuting on these potholes filled roads, but still getting to where they want. India being so diverse and vibrant, roads is one of the most used ways of travel and majority with over loaded vehicles. Most of them seem to be in hurry and highest sense of urgency. At one point I started getting headache where they travel with their hand most of the time on horn. I felt, they honk like trains, most of them use more honking than using breaks or even accelerators.
Potholes, road quality, road sense of people, water clogs, sewage seepage and heavy rain downpour had made the roads all through Mumbai to Surat and Hazira very off-road like. I could see many smaller vehicles stuck in these roads, not able to move because of crater like holes and roads filled with water.
The “Chalta Hai” attitude as I experienced in these people with few having to complain, raise their voice and some taking few steps. But most ignoring & just living with it. This gives another level of understanding on why our roads and infra is still pathetic and not world class.
In the flight, got a newspaper of Mumbai local was amazed to see a coverage. http://mumbaimirror.indiatimes.com/mumbai/civic/Engineer-hoisted-on-potholes-forced-to-hold-this-placard/articleshow/54706934.cms
It was a photo of few ward authorities like corporators holding up the municipality engineer and made him hold a placard with his name stating that he was responsible for these bad roads. This engineer has also lodged a complaint against them stating they have interrupted a civil servant to perform his duties and has harassed him in public. With these government, civil and public elected representatives fighting with each other, it can create new issues than solving the actual road issues.
In Surat I saw many boards where it states “clean city, safe city”, “keep roads clean and treat them like home” and many other good slogans and statements. Though it did seem to be relatively clean city, but the roads did have many potholes and breakages. However, It was very interesting to see the dedicated lanes for buses with grade separators. I was told this is across the state of Gujarat. I had seen this in Ahmadabad was very interesting to see that panned across the state. This has made a difference in the way people commute in Gujarat. It started as a model and now its across state and many other states are replicating. This movement is another way of handling roads and infra issues. The damage created by heavy vehicles will reduce to a great extent and help general public commute better.
Can this model make a difference across India? Maybe it will reduce potholes and maybe it can help keep our roads little better for longer time. It does take a lot in the government and leadership and decision making to think, invest and change the road plans and development. Not many roads in India have space for double roads, and with that constraint a dedicated lane for buses would be a tough call.
Nevertheless, if we can have few alternatives to our roads, be it Metro, mono rails, trams, rails or any other modes, it can have significant reduction in our road safety issues, accidents and less potholes.
Even the Industrial areas where most of the roads are managed and owned by these large industries are not world class either. There is a need to have a dedicated pothole management solution even there. In spite of having the roads in their controls, the effort and time and innovation in maintaining them is very poor. These companies do have many visitors, foreign clients and guests around the world and their first impression and perspective on these road conditions would have an impact in the way they do business and take decisions.
Their own employee safety, equipment safety, wear & tear of vehicles especially whey they carry sensitive and high value goods on these damaged roads can be very costly and fatal. There needs to be a holistic approach in solving these road issues.
As I was writing this blog, a friend shared an article where an Indian-Canadian professor has been researching and working on low cost road an alternative to Tar based roads. Using fly-ash cement and nano-fiber materials, he is looking at self-healing and repairing roads. It was piloted in village near Bangalore and may become a reality. This British Columbia professor and his team is looking at this alternate method to address our rural and urban road infra. This is very encouraging and appealing. We will have to see how this is take up for large scale implementation. https://yourstory.com/2016/10/nemkumar-banthia/. I would be contacting him to understand how this can be used for pothole management.
This journey from Bangalore to Hazira was very enriching but surely beyond this one travel, I am enjoying this journey of knowing and seeing many unique and different avenues with innovative and eco-friendly ways to address the road infra and pothole management. Every friend and an unknown connect is sending me messages and info on how they see and read about pothole management. This is surely encouraging and enriching experience. I am getting such amazing support and traction in making “PotHoleRaja” initiative very successful and impacting.
Every place I travel, every new person I meet, Companies I visit, there is a great interest and support on this social initiative of having Pothole free roads. My journey has just begun & the path is already very exciting. There is so much to learn and do. Having this social action as an important anchor of life is very fulfilling and evolving.
Kindly share more info, innovative approaches and methods to address our road infra and pothole issues holistically. Thank you for your support.