Sat, Sep 15, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Indian man fills potholes out of love for dead son


Dadarao Bilhore fills up a pothole on the Western Express highway in Mumbai, India, on Aug. 29.

Photo: AFP

Dadarao Bilhore smoothes the road surface, rests his shovel, looks to the sky and prays for his son, one of thousands of Indians killed every year in accidents caused by potholes.

Prakash Bilhore, a promising student, was just 16 when he died in July 2015 in Mumbai, India’s hectic financial and Bollywood capital of 20 million people.

To help deal with his grief, Prakash’s devastated father Dadarao decided he would do something about Mumbai’s roads, which like much of India’s, are notoriously shoddy.

Using sand and gravel collected from building sites, Dadarao Bilhore has filled in almost 600 potholes across India’s financial capital in the past three years.

The 48-year-old vegetable vendor does it to pay tribute to his beloved son and in the hope that it will save lives.

“Prakash’s sudden death left a huge void in our lives. I do this work to remember and honor him. I also don’t want anyone else to lose a loved one like we have,” Dadarao Bilhore said at the modest apartment he shares with his wife, daughter and extended family.

Prakash Bilhore was traveling pillion when the motorbike he was on with his cousin hit a deep pothole, sending them both flying through the air.

Prakash, who was not wearing a helmet, suffered fatal brain damage.

His cousin, who was wearing a helmet, walked away with minor injuries.

The tragic accident occurred during Mumbai’s summer monsoon when heavy rains are blamed for causing crater-like holes on the teeming coastal city’s roads.

Potholes are so common that a campaign is under way to have Mumbai featured in Guinness World Records as the city with the most potholes.

Navin Lade, a resident, claims to have recorded more than 27,000 holes on the Web site, although local officials dispute his findings.

Government statistics show that potholes were responsible for the deaths of 3,597 people across India last year, an average of 10 a day.

Citizens blame government apathy, accusing local authorities of failing to maintain roads properly.

Activists say contractors hired to repave roads do a bad job on purpose so the work would need to be done the following year.

“The government needs to take responsibility and create better infrastructure,” Dadarao Bilhore said.

He says he has repaired 585 potholes, many of them alone, others with the help of volunteers who are inspired by his story.

Dadarao Bilhore has been featured in many Indian newspaper articles and received several awards, earning him the nickname “pothole dada,” an affectionate term for a respected male.

“Recognition of our work has given me strength to deal with the pain and wherever I go I feel Prakash is standing with me” Dadarao Bilhore said. “As long as I am alive and can walk I will get rid of all of these potholes.”

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