The Sunday morning mishap at a Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DM-RC) worksite in the capital’s congested Laxmi Nagar area was shocking as well as surprising. This wasn’t the first time that such an accident had taken place at a Metro worksite in New Delhi. On July 18, an iron girder fell on a taxi and on August 28, a worker died at a construction site after a crane toppled. The latest incident saw massive concrete slabs being used for construction of an overhead stretch fall, killing two and injuring 11. There’s no doubt that the toll could have been much higher had the incident happened on a busy weekday or even later on Sunday. Though these mishaps have taken some sheen off the DMRC’s work, there’s no denying that its track record has been far better than any other public work entity in the country. Therein lies a scarier tale.
Therefore, instead of jumping to conclusions on the lines of ‘the Laxmi Nagar incident was waiting to happen’, it’s correct to look at it as an anomaly. The DMRC was swift to order a probe and seal the offices of the contractors who were in charge. Hopefully, these measures will uncover the reason behind the incident and that the report would be made public.
Was Sunday’s accident a result of the enormous pressure of finishing a large part of the project before the Commonwealth Games? In Phase 1 of the Metro construction, 65 kms of track were laid in eight years while Phase 2 involves laying 122 kms of track within only three-and-a-half years. Yes, the pressure is there but safety has to be paramount. In India, once a contractor is handed out work, the parent company moves into the horizon. In such cases, compliance becomes a casualty. The DMRC should guard itself against such a slide.
As everything else in India, politicians have been quick to politicise the tragedy. Instead, it’s best to leave it to the investigators to find out the actual cause behind the accident. Meanwhile, let’s hope that the DMRC’s internal mechanism will be able to leave this incident behind and carry on the good work they have been doing.