May 16, 2018 will forever be remembered as the day when the country mourned the death of 18 lives lost in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh after a part of an under-construction flyover collapsed. But we won’t look back at this day to learn lessons on how to avoid such tragedies where innocent die because of human negligence and corruption.
Rajan Mittal is the Managing Director of Uttar Pradesh Bridge Corporation, in-charge of the flyover project in question. As per The Times of India, he was removed by the previous government in November 2016 on corruption allegations. But once BJP came into power, Mittal was reinstated.
A report in Hindustan Times says that the UP State Bridge Corporation has come under scrutiny twice before. Once in 2010 when a bridge in the Fatehpur-Bundelkhand region cracked within 13 days of its inauguration and in 2016, when Lohia bridge in Lucknow developed a cavity. In both cases, no action was taken other than the usual assortment of committees, probes and reports.
Man-made disasters were hidden behind the veil of natural calamity.
When a poorly constructed bridge collapses, the actions taken are a couple of suspensions, FIRs and announcement of compensation. When the issue is fresh, the government undertakes such band-aid measures to calm the mourning public and the enraged media. When the calamity dies down due to superficial action, it is forgotten until repeated again.
In 2016, akin to the disaster in Varanasi, 26 people died and 20 others were injured when a bridge collapsed in one of the busiest streets in Kolkata, West Bengal. The aftermath was nothing we haven’t witnessed before – public outrage, media coverage and hollow promises by politicians.
Two years hence, is the area any safer?
According to an April 2, 2018 report in The Hindu, the remaining structure of the damaged bridge in Kolkata is yet to be removed and may “collapse any time”.
The preliminary report names faults in design, poor quality of raw materials and lack of supervision as reasons behind the collapse of the flyover, but the criminal trial is yet to begin and all 16 accused of the crime are out on bail.
The Wire also did done an extensive report on the issue on 20 April 2018, describing how everyone from the police to the CM Mamata Banerjee-led government is silent on the issue and the case is now buried.
This paints a grim picture of how the system itself is unbothered to punish the culprits. There must be hundreds of other such incidents where a bridge collapses here or a flyover falls apart there due to criminal negligence. But are our leaders learning lessons from these incidents or thumping their chests louder in apathy?
Don’t answer yet.
We, the citizens of this nation, partake in rallies taken out by our leaders, wear on our heads the symbols of our preferred political parties and lash out on anyone who speaks against the politicians we support. What is the reason for such unparalleled support? Does sloganeering make our leaders think, “oh, he screams my name the loudest, I will take care of his needs.
Will our eyes and ears remains shut till we are victims ourselves?
You may answer now.