The under-construction flyover that collapsed in Varanasi, killing at least 18 people, has close parallels with a similar incident in Kolkata two years ago in which over 25 were crushed to death. A committee set up by the West Bengal government comprising experts from IIT Kharagpur to study the cause of the tragedy found it was essentially a man-made disaster. From the design of the flyover and the quality of construction material used to the execution of the project itself, the IIT team found that almost every procedure followed was in the breach.
Although the precise cause of the accident in Varanasi will only be established once the inquiry is completed, initial reports suggest it is another story of criminal neglect. It turns out the police had written five letters to the UP State Bridge Corporation (UPSBC) since November last that traffic passing under the flyover was unsafe. Cops even registered an FIR this February against UPSBC for not following traffic safety regulations during construction.
Apparently two beams holding up the concrete slabs buckled under pressure and collapsed. This can only happen if the beams are of poor quality. Though the state government has suspended two project managers and two engineers overseeing the construction, the action does little to assuage the families of the victims. Every tragedy is followed by a probe and punitive action against officials at the lower rung but no lessons are learnt. Some families had to deal not only with the death of their loved ones but were also humiliated by hospital authorities, who allegedly asked for a bribe for conducting a post-mortem.
The accident also throws up questions over the delay in the project. The flyover’s construction began over two years ago during the chief ministership of Akhilesh Yadav. The fact that work on the project is still underway betrays official apathy and inefficiency. Administrative laxity and bureaucratic red tape are the bane of good governance; they should be countered soon to avoid needless tragedies.