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Who is accountable for Mumbai’s crumbling infrastructure?

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Six railway bridges have fallen in the last one and a half years in Mumbai but the government is stirring everything in the blame game. The bridge connecting the CSMT with the B.T. Lane near The Times of India Building and the Anjuman-e-Islam School was used by thousands of daily commuters rushing to catch the local trains on Central Railway and the Harbour Line. On March 14, a large part of the bridge came down and in this mishap, six people lost their lives and 33 were injured. Police registered cases against Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Indian Railway officials charging them with culpable homicide. The Mumbai Police arrested the structural auditor of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Neeraj Kumar Desai, who apparently declared the Himalaya foot overbridge (FOB) safe for use in his audit report. His company had reportedly conducted a structural audit of the collapsed bridge. In protest with the arrest of engineers, other BMC engineers went on a mass leave from, May 9 for the next 15 days. The BMC authorities do not want to accept the fact that they are equally responsible for mishaps.

Six railway bridge accidents in two years – three of them resulting in deaths – have angered Mumbai about the state of its civic structure, the misery and fury over administrative negligence echoed on social media. A portion of a foot overbridge at the city’s busy Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus railway station collapsed killing six and injuring 33. The bridge was three decades old and had reportedly been declared fit for use in an audit carried out by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation just six months ago. After the collapse, a blame game has begun between the Railways and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, with each claiming the other was responsible for maintaining the bridge. Who should be blamed, the government agencies, the contractors or the BMC?

People are dying, accidents are happening, the PM is expanding his vocal cords and screaming about development and smart cities, bullet trains, and metro trains, but we do not have properly audited bridges in the city. No one has ever faced lawsuits over the collapse of these bridges. Moreover, any legal liability will depend on the results of ongoing investigations into the causes of the collapse, and it’s still too early to know who, if anyone, may be legally responsible for the disaster. Investigators will need to find out exactly what caused the collapse if it could have been prevented and who may have known the bridge could be dangerous. There has to be a thorough investigation to find out who’s at fault. The BMC has the primary responsibility for inspecting and maintaining the bridge, but their audits have announced that the bridges are safe to commute and they breakdown. However, they may not have to answer to their approach and corruptions. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis seeks inquiry and fulfills his duty by paying compensations.

This is not the first bridge that collapsed and inquiry is set, what happened to the previous bridges that collapsed and the inquiry conducted? If those inquiries and audits were done in time, perhaps such accidents could have been avoided.

Even earlier, the section of the Gokhale Bridge at the Andheri station in Mumbai collapsed following hours of unabated rain. The collapse of the bridge on SV road in the city, which connects Andheri East and Andheri West station, left at least five people injured. One of the injured, a woman named Asmita Katkar (35), succumbed to her injuries four days later at Mumbai’s RN Cooper Municipal General Hospital. A probe by the Commissioner of Railway Safety termed six Western Railway officials and the BMC as responsible for the incident. However, we can see none of them were booked or punished for negligence.

On October 15, 2017, one person sustained injuries after stairs of a foot-over bridge near Charni Road railway station crumbled. On September 29, 2017, at least 23 people were killed and 39 others were injured after a stampede broke out at the suburban Elphinstone Road railway station pedestrian bridge. The incident took place between the Parel railway station and Elphinstone Road railway station.

A probe panel, headed by Western Railway chief security officer, in its report to Western Railway General Manager Anil Kumar, said that the incident happened because of heavy rain, but none was blamed. How can rains collapse any structure?

On December 13, 2015, nine people were injured when a bridge collapsed in the suburban Malad area of Mumbai. The bridge connected Evershine Nagar in Malad to Malvani. Maharashtra accounted for the second-highest number of deaths (4,237) due to structural collapses between 2001 and 2015, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s 2016 report. In total, at least 38,363 people lost their lives in as many as 37,514 incidents of the collapse of various structures during this period across the country. The types of structural collapses that the data records include: bridges, commercial buildings, dams, residential buildings, and others. As per the reports as many as 1,217 people died in incidents of bridge collapses throughout the country in these 15 years. The governments came and gone, political parties changed in power, let it be BJP or Congress its people who lost their lives and politicians lost their credibility by blaming each other. The infrastructure especially these overhead bridges are so old and smutty and the crowd in Mumbai growing by the day, this I fear will keep happening and poor Mumbaikars have no other option but to commute. Every such act of negligence by the government and civic authorities should be counted as state-sponsored murder of its citizens which makes one feel so angry and helpless. We use the local train and these stations daily and it’s impossible now to not feel paranoid.


(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on feedback@www.afternoonvoice.com)

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Tamanhttps://authorvaidehi.com
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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