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CSMT bridge collapse in Mumbai: Of flawed monitoring, lack of interest in infra maintenance

As many as 31 Mumbaiites have been killed in three bridge-related incidents in two years for no fault of theirs.

mumbai Updated: Mar 16, 2019 01:12 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
CSMT bridge collapse,CSMT,Mumbai bridges
Workers dismantle the bridge near CSMT which collapsed on Thursday. (Bhushan Koyande/HT)

Mumbai is in the middle of rebuilding. Infrastructure projects worth more than ₹1 lakh crore have been undertaken by the city as well as state government. It includes Metro corridors, coastal road, sea links and link roads. While these big ticket projects are being taken up, the authorities are ignoring the upkeep of the existing basic infrastructure.

As many as 31 Mumbaiites have been killed in three bridge-related incidents in two years for no fault of theirs. Whether it was the stampede at the Elphinstone Road bridge or collapse of the pedestrian part of the Andheri road overbridge or slab collapse of pedestrian bridge connecting Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus on Thursday, one thing seems to be common – lack of monitoring or flaws in the monitoring of such structures. The authorities concerned were supposed to conduct periodic safety audit of these structures to ensure they were safe for use.

In case of the Elphinstone Road bridge, the Railways was expected to take note of the significant increase in the number of commuters using the station, which was not difficult to notice. In case of the bridge that collapsed on Thursday, the safety audit report had concluded the structure was in sound condition. This indicates flaws in the monitoring system.

While the ruling politicians and administration are excited over building big-ticket infrastructure projects, there seems to be little enthusiasm to ensure proper maintenance of the old and crumbling infrastructure. Maintaining existing infrastructure may not be always exciting.

In two weeks before the election code of conduct (which bans decisions that would influence voters) came into effect, the ruling parties in the Mumbai civic body worked overtime to clear expenditure proposals of over ₹2,000 crore without debate. It did not include the proposal to repair the bridge at CSMT, although the safety audit report submitted in August 2018 had recommended minor repairs.

The episode shows the priority of those running various government authorities.

What happened on Thursday is not the first such instance and won’t be the last.

Unless politicians and bureaucrats face the music for negligence and unscrupulous contractors are given severe punishment such as imprisonment for profiteering at the cost of public safety, innocent Mumbaiites will continue to lose their lives in such incidents.

First Published: Mar 16, 2019 01:12 IST