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No one in charge of Mumbai as authorities play blame game in wake of Andheri bridge collapse

Why does the survey and audit of bridges take two years for BMC, one of the country’s biggest civic authorities?

mumbai Updated: Jul 04, 2018 08:30 IST
Ketaki Ghoge
Ketaki Ghoge
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Mumbai news,Andheri bridge collapse,Mumbai rains
Gokhale foot overbridge collapsed in Andheri, Mumbai, on Tuesday, July 3, 2018.(Satyabrata Tripathy/HT Photo)

On Tuesday, the city averted a major disaster even after a part of a bridge linking Andheri East to West, one of the busiest railway stations, fell on to the railway tracks. While five commuters got injured, it was sheer luck that there was no casualty and the bridge was not crowded at the time of the accident. Over the past decade-and-a-half, the maximum city seems to be running solely on such ‘chances’ – good or bad – because the buck, in case of Mumbai, stops with no one.

Minutes after the bridge collapsed, paralysing western suburban railway services, the two authorities responsible for the upkeep of this bridge - the railways and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) – started the usual blame game over jurisdiction. But it was not jurisdiction overlap that led to this accident, it was apathy and inefficiencies of both these authorities. After the Mahad bridge collapsed on the Savitri river in 2016, killing as many as 42 passengers, the state government was aware that many of the state’s British-era railway over and foot overbridges were in a precarious state. After the Elphinstone stampede last year, the railways learnt about it.

For the last two years since the Mahad incident, BMC has been surveying all bridges in the city. While this survey has been complete, data categorising the different stages of the bridges and further repair work needed has not been compiled. The question is why does such the survey and audit of bridges take two years for one of the country’s biggest civic authorities?

For this bridge specifically, BMC claims it had paid money to the railways for its upkeep, but there has been no correspondence between the two since 2011.

That railways can sleep over such correspondence despite last year’s Elphinstone Road stampede only points to the arrogance of its bureaucracy.

Since the 2005 deluge, the consequent floods and civic tragedies, we have seen this blame game now for too long and too often. Multiple agencies involved in running the city, from the state government to MMRDA, BMC to railways, work in silo and come together only for an annual pre-monsoon meet headed by the chief minister or after such tragedies. It is also true that the central government authorities rarely respond in time to state-level authorities. In the past, many such pre- or post-disaster meetings have got resolved with agencies jointly blaming the rain gods or natural calamities for the city’s inadequacies. Efforts to set up a unified authority on the lines of London’s TFL by the previous as well as this government have failed consistently because there is no political will for this. The current saffron dispensation also blames all of Mumbai’s planning, commuting, civic issues on the ‘legacy burden’ – the 15-year rule of the Congress-NCP government. This should now stop given that the government has completed nearly four years in power in the state. And, the BJP-Sena combine has run the civic body for three decades. In the last four years, Mumbaiites have been stranded in the rain overnight, drowned in open manholes, died over potholes and were suffocated in stampede on way to work.

First Published: Jul 04, 2018 08:29 IST