Bengaluru and roads are like fish and chips. They make a perfect combination of ingredients for a delicious recipe of online humour.
Heralded as "India's tech capital," "Silicon Valley of India," and the "Mecca of startups," the southern Indian city struggles with its own set of problems. Poor infrastructure and road conditions make life difficult for the 8.4 million residents of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), the capital of Karnataka state.
To address one of these issues, the Karnataka state government recently took up an ambitious initiative to level tens of thousands of potholes across the city. The project was so ambitious for the administration that it missed five deadlines — underscoring the government's underestimation of the existing road conditions. Heavy rains during October and November have only added to the chaos.
The government was forced to undertake the pothole-filling mission after several deaths were linked to poor road conditions. In Bengaluru, more than 500 people have been killed in road-related incidents so far this year.
The city's hospitals have also seen a spike in the number of patients, who have sustained spinal injuries chiefly due to poor road conditions. "After these potholes started surfacing, the numbers have almost doubled," an orthopaedic surgeon BS Shankar recently told the AFP news agency.
With the state government facing crucial elections in 2018, the stakes are high.
To get the government's attention towards poor road conditions, activists have painted elaborate murals around these craters and turned potholes into ponds filled with models dressed as mermaids.
Bengaluru Development Minister KJ George has promised that the city, with a road network of more than 10,000km, would be totally free of bumpy rides and potholes by April 2018. Siddaramaiah, the chief minister of the state, had earlier warned officials concerned that they would be held accountable if potholes remained unfilled even after 6 November — the fifth deadline. Top authorities have carried out an inspection on motorbikes to monitor the status of the roads.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) — the state body responsible for Bengaluru's infrastructure and tasked with conducting road repairs — said its workers have fixed approximately 100,000 potholes in recent weeks.
Officials say more than 96% of the repair work has been completed, but questions have been raised over the quality of these overhauling efforts. "Contractors have done sub-standard work. We found gravel has been used to fill potholes," Sharath Kumar, member of a local political outfit that recently organised a "pothole walkathon," told the Hindu newspaper.
The automated pothole filling machine, Python, which was specifically acquired to ensure a smooth ride for motorists, has also come under criticism for its snail's pace.
With no end in sight to their travelling woes, people in Bengaluru are trying to find humour in their situation, for now.