The State of Pune’s Infrastructure, Part 1: Roads and Electricity

This 3-part series of posts has been long overdue, but something must be said about the state of Pune’s infrastructure. I intended this to be an article series filled with sarcasm and wry humour, but things are too serious for that kind of stuff.

Quite simply, I have seen this city degrade in front of my very eyes, over the past year. The PMC has probably not even woken up to the fact that Pune is not the quaint, bucolic retirees’ haven that it was ten years ago, that it is now a fast-growing, bustling metropolis with a growing population, growing infrastructure needs and a changing demography. The “town” mentality still persists among administrators. The result is that the city is crumbling at the edges with the sheer strain of supporting the demands of its new residents, with the threat of completely falling apart. I shall examine three aspects of the city’s Infrastructure:

Part 1: Roads and Electricity. (this post)
Part 2: Construction and Urban Planning.
Part 3: Public Transport.

Roads:
Punekars, native and otherwise, will all unanimously agree with me on this one. The roads in Pune, big and small, peripheral and arterial, are in a horrific state. No, you have to see it to believe it. I remember reading an Archer novel once where the protagonist described Germany’s roads, post-World War II. Pune reminds me of that now. There are everyday instances of accidents, some very serious, because of the disgusting quality of roads, and the difficulty in navigating them. Motorcyclists risk damage to their lower backs, cars wear out their suspension and the Pune Municipal Corporation’s own buses, ancient relics already, break down every single day. Road repair is a joke, and it involves either filling mud or rocks into the potholes. That actually makes things far worse. Traffic congestion is another massive problem. All the gains that the Mumbai-Pune Expressway has made are lost with the countless minutes lost navigating traffic in the city.

Road repairs are another thing. The Solapur Road flyover, which every IBMer is all-too-familiar with, is singlehandedly responsible for all the pandemonium in the surrounding area. Any visitor to this area will be shell-shocked by the revolting scenes here. That flyover has been under construction at least a couple of months before I joined IBM (in July 2004), and it is nowhere near completion. There’s also some foolhardy road widening underway, and rampant, uncontrolled encroachment has ensured that only the narrowest of strips is left open for any sort of traffic. It is a nightmare to navigate. I speak of this road because I travel down that stretch everyday – Punekars will give you dozens more examples from across the city, each competing for the epithet of “worst stretch of road”.

Electricity:
For a city which projects manufacturing, IT and education as its pillars of growth, Pune’s electricity situation is shameful. You cannot run any of the three industries with a four-hour power cut every single day. God alone knows how much IBM spends extra every day to generate power to keep all of our systems powered up 24×7. Ditto for manufacturing and education. A city of Pune’s size needs an independent power grid. Growth in the city cannot, simply cannot be held hostage to policies applicable to the rest of the state. The stakes are just too high.