A flyover in Varanasi collapsed on Tuesday killing 18 people. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered proceedings for strict penal action against former Managing Director of UP Bridge Corporation and six others in connection with this.
It is more than just a tragedy. It is, in fact, a symptom of a deeper malaise that ails India. Here are 7 reasons why this incident is a mirror to the true image of India:
The Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation MD, Rajan Mittal, had been unceremoniously sacked by Akhilesh Yadav when he took charge of the PWD Ministry in 2016. The reasons for his ouster ranged from questionable integrity to his proximity with Shivpal Yadav, Akhilesh’s uncle, who was also removed from the UP cabinet by Akhilesh. Interestingly, in 2017, soon after the BJP came to power, Rajan Mittal was back as MD of the UPSBC, this time apparently enjoying the political patronage of the Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya. Maurya holds charge of the PWD and is also Chairman of the UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam. Interestingly, Mittal holds dual charge of both UPSBC and UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam. So a tainted bureaucrat is not only reinstated, but also given additional charge, possibly because of his political connections.
This disease ails all of India – corrupt officers run the country with the help of political patronage.
Proper procedures are not followed
When the under-construction bridge collapsed, the damage to life and property was extensive because no barricades had been placed to prevent encroachments or traffic. It is generally the norm to make alternate arrangements for the movement of traffic before any public work is undertaken to ensure that the common man is not affected. No service lanes were made. In the absence of alternate arrangements, traffic was moving routinely under the under-construction bridge.
India seems to be working without any professional work ethic.
Anytime something goes wrong, the easiest thing to do is shirk responsibility, point fingers and blame someone else. In this case, the immediate scapegoats are the Chief Project Manager HC Tiwari, Project Manager KR Sudan, Assistant Engineer Rajesh Singh and Engineer Lal Chand who have all been suspended. The UPSBC MD Rajan Mittal is blaming the city Traffic Police for allowing traffic to ply under the bridge and the Traffic Police is claiming that the Bridge Corporation did not deploy any volunteers to monitor the traffic. Both parties are throwing correspondence at each other claiming that the other did not do its job. No one is ready to accept their part in the tragedy.
No one has the courage of conviction to own moral responsibility. We as a nation seem to lack a strong moral fibre.
React after the incident
We want to shut the barn door after the horse has bolted. Now that the bridge has collapsed and people have died, work on all the projects of the UPSBC has stopped. Now, they have made a team to conduct a safety survey of the 115 bridges and 68 railway over-bridges under construction by them. Rather than taking preventive steps at the onset of work, we want to take reactive steps once things have gone wrong.
We are a reactive nation without any foresight and contingency planning. We lack any concept of safety audits of public spaces.
Mortuary sweeper demands bribes
In a pathetic example of how morally corrupt we are, the sweeper at Benares Hindu University, where the autopsies on the victims of the bridge collapse are being done, demanded bribes from the families of the dead. And this is happening in perhaps one of the holiest cities of the country, which also just happens to be the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Even the dead are accorded no dignity.
Everything can be blamed to God, fate, destiny and in this case – nature. Rajan Mittal told gathered media persons that the bridge collapsed due to a thunderstorm. Was he even listening to himself? What kind of a bridge were they constructing that all it took was a thunderstorm to knock crucial cross beam out of place? Though he swears by the quality of the construction material, if it could be knocked out by wind and rain, then maybe the quality parameters need to be checked.
Man-made tragedies explained away as “natural disasters”. We always have a fall-guy ready.
Politics of Inauguration Stones
The task ahead of the UPSBC was momentous. They had to complete 115 bridges and 68 railway over-bridges before the end of 2018. This bridge was about 56% complete and work was on at a feverish pace with three 8-hour shifts working round-the-clock. Why the hurry, one might ask. Maybe something to do with a need to get as many bridges inaugurated before the 2019 general elections?
Genuine development vs Development for the sake of propaganda.