Monday, September 13, 2010

Kerala: Roads are meant for…?

In the beginning there was no road. Adam and Eve didn’t require pathways to roam around in their Garden. Move anywhere and it was Paradise. The first specific road was perhaps the one the original couple treaded when they were banished from the Garden of Eden.

With the increase in the number of their descendants more footpaths emerged. Later on the wheel was discovered and human and animal drawn wagons were made. That required many footpaths to be converted to wider tracks or primitive roads.

The next major development was the automated vehicles with pneumatic tires. They transformed the transport industry. Wise men realized the economic importance of road transport which could move people and goods faster - point to point, warehouse to warehouse.

But the vehicles required proper roads. Road building technology developed and broad modern highways were built in many countries. Better roads meant fiscal advantage in different ways.

On good roads the vehicles can travel faster and more safely. Their maintenance outlay would be minimized. This reduces the cost of transporting goods which, in turn, lessens the selling prices.

Proper highways considerably reduce the turnaround time of the vehicles. The quantity of goods transported on a bad road by three trucks could be probably managed by one lorry on a good highway by making three trips. This means that money required for two trucks could be used for other development activities. Overall economic growth escalates the need for articles and more trucks to carry them.

Realizing the importance of good roads India constituted National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) by an Act of the Parliament to create world class roads with uninterrupted traffic flow. The successful operation of this organization requires the cooperation of the State governments. By and large, such support is there. 60 meter wide National Highways (NH) are coming up all over the country.

But Kerala has to be different.

The State argued that because of the heavy density of population the width of NHs in Kerala should be scaled down to 45m. After a great deal of discussions, NHAI agreed to this though a heavy increase in truck traffic is expected with the opening of the Vallarpadam Container Transhipment Terminal later this year.

It is a common practice in Kerala to hold political meetings on highways. Sometimes rallies and religious functions are held blocking the traffic totally. Recently one citizen went to the High Court against this. The verdict was obvious – roads are meant for traffic and obstructing that should not be permitted.

There were heavy protests from politicians against this verdict. The Judges were abused in public. Kerala Government went to the High Court with a review petition that failed. Now there is talk about approaching the Supreme Court on the issue. And the politicians keep on saying that the High Court verdict would be broken frequently.

In the meanwhile the question of road width has still not abated. Now the demand is that the NHs should only 30m broad. Basically this comes from the traders and people staying along the roadside. The law and policy of the government is that proper compensation should be paid to the owners when private property is taken over public purpose. But law and logic do not always prevail in Kerala.

Just a couple of weeks back in another case the High Court made a statement that travelling on NH47 in Kerala is like riding a horse! The road condition is so bad.

Now, this leads to another question. If the new tracks are meant for horses, horse carts and meetings, what should be its breadth?

Also see:

The maiming of Munnar


Anonymous said...

Kerala very badly missing a Sir CP or the much famed Chinese (more comrade friendly) model of development.

Aren't our comrades aware of the fact; in their Utopia (atleast their chief Karat's), the masters in Peking usually draw a line between two spots on the map and the comrades and non comrades must 'give way' for the development of their motherland.
Is it just because they dont have to worry about votebank politics since there are no viable opossition?

Or that our comrades need power at any cost , so they conveniently trying to ignore the need for better infrastructure?

The same applies with the Aam - Aadmi champions also..

If today's Aam Aadmi is to prosper tomorrow, sacrifices and changes need to happen today..Instead of vote based Aam Aadmi brainwashing tactics for the sake of power.. there needs to be more honest and sincere effort to let Aam Aadmi let know, today's sacrifice is for a better tomorrow.. very much like the sacrifice from our old generation freedom fighters for our cause rather than their momentary glory..

But then; in this heroworshiping , cult oriented democracy of ours .. how many of the political elite does have a sincere feeling towards our country's prosperity VS their own personal agenda to remain or ascent the power ladder..

Unknown said...

Thank you Kariyachan.

Sunita Mohan said...

Thought-provoking! And I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humour.
I love the little country roads of Kerala but since I don't live there I'm probably being quite impractical in my wish that it doesn't change(in its beauty, not in its condition or travel-worthiness).
The highways, though, are another matter and shouldn't be left to the whims and moods of petty politicians to become fodder for their manipulations.

Prasanth said...

Nicely put!! Forget about widening the roads - even existing roads are very badly maintained. I frequently drive down from Chennai and the Palghat - Trichur stretch is a nightmare full of pot holes and broken tarmac.

Lakshmi said...

great post..completely agree with it..I guess if theres a way infrastructure development can happen without spoiling the rustic charm of kerala, it would be good

Roshan Gomez said...

Remember riding my scooter from Thiruvalla to TVPM a few years back. This was at night via MC road. It was raining badly and the road barely existed. One side of the road was completely broken off.

I saw a Mercedes E -Class with a Kerala Government plate zooming at me on the wrong side. The younger immature rebel inside me wanted to block the road and emphasize my right. However, a desire to live, and fear of consequence curbed my testosterone as I skidded off-road and parked my Vespa in front of a tea shop for chai and smoke...

I was not an angel either. My scooter was in very bad shape with broken headlamp and only two gears... oh and no clutch.

The state of affairs definitely need improvement and I do agree with all your observations in this regard.

Nevertheless, bout this blog, I would love to read more of your stories... I have found them to be so endearing and sensitive.

Meera's World said...

Great post.Everytime i go through between Manacaud and Eastfort in Trivandrum, i pray and hope no pregnant women by chance go that way.Its simply indescribable.I dont know what would make our ministers do something about our roads.

manisha sharma said...

hey , nice blog , like it ,
won't be nice if i u can clickover to my blog page too ,
& post some suggestion

Unknown said...

Sunita, nice to hear from you after a long time. Thanks for the comment.

Unknown said...

You are right, Prasanth. The Kerala roads are in horrible condition and a lot of noise is being made about it. The government says repairs can be undertaken only after the rains. Why it was not done before the monsoon is a question without answer.

Unknown said...

Thank you Lakshmi. I am sure that the planners would give due consideration to retaining the rustic beauty of Kerala.

Unknown said...

Interesting comment. Thank you Roshan.
I'll try to post more stories.

Unknown said...

Meera, you have described the situation so well in your short comment. The authorities would hopefully do something about the Kerala roads after the NE monsoon.

Unknown said...

Monisha Mehta, thanks. I had a brief look at your page. Shall get back.