Rains have been battering many parts of the Indian peninsula since many weeks and this has impacted the lives of scores of people. Bengaluru, in particular, has been plagued not just by torrential, nonstop rains but deaths due to crater-like potholes which have increased in length and depth due to the incessant rains which have corroded the poor quality roads. There are close to 16,000 potholes in Bengaluru and reportedly, four people have died due to pothole related accidents. The authorities have been promising to fix these but little has been done on that front. Not one to rely solely on Government agencies to do their job, Prathap of “ PotholeRaja” fame decided to fix these potholes on his own. He says “The taxes paid by citizens are fairly high and not justified. The leadership and governance of the system is surely a cause of concern and needs attention. Along with raising our voice and pushing the authorities to do their work, I also believe that we should take some social responsibility and have a sense of belonging to the roads that we drive around. It’s like the saying, if the maid is on leave, would you not clean up your own house? I urge people to take up some ownership to see that the roads we drive are safer for us and the people we love”.
Prathap -creator and promoter – PotholeRaja , social entrepreneur, passionate trainer and flier, doctorate in management, pencil sketch artist and motivational speaker has travelled all over the world and was often told by people everywhere that though Bengaluru has a great weather and is a great place, the roads and traffic are pathetic. He says of his motivation to drive this initiative “As part of another venture that I am involved in, which is related to providing education to children, Grade 10 students work on social action projects. I saw that the kind of projects and results they showed were extraordinary and I started wondering if a 15 year old could make an impact, why cannot I? This was what got me thinking. Also, many of my close friends and relatives have been involved in pothole accidents and a very close friend’s daughter died as a result. My own social bug which is directly connected to my personal vision of “live, love, learn and leave legacy” has been the constant anchor for me to start researching and doing”. Prathap launched this initiative under the aegis of his company Ground Reality Enterprise.
The funds for this initiative are primarily Prathap’s own and his friends apart from some support of employees of some companies. The biggest support he gets is from citizens and companies along with the media. There are now more than a hundred volunteers and 25 companies supporting this initiative.
Prathap has a four pronged approach where he uses storytelling, design, consulting and awareness to get his point across. He says “I want road safety to be in everyone’s core DNA and people should take accountability for the roads they travel”. Any Bengalurean can send pictures and GPS location of the pothole to a mobile number using WhatsApp or SMS to +91 814 POTHOLE (768 4653). After the image is sent, Prathap and his team use a mobile app which helps to identify the exact location. Drones are also used if the area is large. After this, they go about mobilizing resources for fixing them using the local people around these areas. Typically it cost Rs.2500 per sq.mt having 50 mm depth. On an average a pothole is less than 2 sq.mt. Talking about the material used in fixing potholes, Prathap shares “I studied and researched the methods used worldwide for fixing potholes. Many use the traditional road laying process even for potholes which is cumbersome and costly. I am told that the current road laying process used is almost a 70-80 yr old method which has not been changed despite new innovative materials and methods available. I use cold asphalt to fix potholes for which no large machinery is needed and it has no environmental impact either as there is no heating nor release of toxic fumes. We just need 2 people with very basic tools like sweepers, brooms, hand tampers and shovels. It takes 10-15 mins for cleaning and making the pothole ready, and another 10-15 mins for pouring cold asphalt and tamping it. Within 30-45 mins a pothole is fixed. This cold asphalt is also eco-friendly and uses plastic waste as one of the binding materials. The fixed pothole has a life of over a year if the base road is of good quality, else we give warranty of 5-6 months based on the road assessment. You can see all potholes reported with live status on https://www.potholeraja.com/live-potholeview”.
The PotholeRaja vision statement sets to empower transgenders by 2020. Prathap says of his vision “As of now we have over 3-4 transgender friends in Bengaluru who come and help us in fixing potholes. We have made a small start by enabling and engaging them for taking roads safety, pothole fixing, and related activities as their core profession rather than their current engagements of begging or sex or even theft which are the stigmas attached to them. With media support and awareness, NGOs and organizations who deal with transgender friends are coming forward to support and help. I pay Rs. 500 per day for less than 3-4 hours a day of work. Once we have constant and regular work, we can look at much more support and other benefits. I also have group insurance in the company, so that if there are any incidents that needs immediate attention, insurance should be able to cover”.
He adds “There are thousands potholes and of course, it is that easy to fill all potholes, as it keeps coming up every now for 2 main reasons – water clogging / drain issues and technical and engineering flaws which are not taken care is the cause of these bad quality roads. Until we take care of these basic issues, these chickenpox potholes will keep popping up. I urge the Government to make our roads worldclass and safe for people to travel. With such amazing powers, support and resource availability, it should not be difficult. They should engage organizations like ours to make a holistic public-private partnership and take citizens in to confidence. I recommend that people should pay for road they use and not just pay taxes at once. The toll based and private road model for all roads would ensure better managed roads and ownership. Privatization of roads with highest level of quality engineering, monitoring and pay for use models will solve many issues including corruption and fatalities”.
Prathaap aims to enable and empower at least 500 transgenders to take pothole fixing & road safety as an alternate profession by 2020 and also looks forward to the support of a thousand companies in 3 years. We also want to make commercially available “Do-It- Yourself” kits for ensuring road safety. We aspire to make all the metro cities of India pothole-free and fix any within 3-5 days and make 10 major cities of the world to be pothole free by 2023. We also look forward to having more than ten State governments use PotHoleRaja ® technology, approach and model for their States’ road safety and pothole management. We also have plans to do crowdfunding and capitalizing CSR funding. I hope to see this vision of “making our roads pothole free and fixing any within 3 -5 days” will live beyond me”.
Images Courtesy : PotholeRaja.