– by Saloni Bisht
India was under colonial rule for almost 200 years. If we begin to weigh the pros and cons of British rule then the cons will unquestionably be heavier than the pros, as the history is evident. But we certainly cannot ignore the pros, especially the infrastructure development. The condition of infrastructure and connectivity during the pre-British India was extremely poor. Therefore Britishers were in charge for most of India’s infrastructure growth. They built railways, bridges, roads, and whatnot, obviously for British empowerment and to ease the passage of raw materials and not for providing basic facilities to the citizens.
Well, that being said, even today after almost 73 years of independence in many parts of India people use bridges, stations, buildings that were constructed by the Britishers back then, which makes them 100 plus years old and some even more. Horrifying, isn’t it? What’s more horrifying is that in the colonial period the construction was done keeping in mind the then population. In 1947 India’s population was around 350 million, whereas at present it is approximately 1.16 billion. The growing population demands the renovation of the aging infrastructure, or else the infrastructural gap will lead to disastrous incidents.
2019 started on a bad note for Mumbai, the financial capital of India, as a horrible tragedy took place in the heart of the city. On 14 March 2019, at a peak hour a foot over-bridge of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CST), one of Mumbai’s busiest railway stations, came crashing down like a “pack of cards”. Shockingly, a structural audit of bridges that took place in the city had found this one to be fit. Despite BMC being India’s richest civic body, Mumbaikars bear the overcrowded and insecure commutes which results in such tragedies.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “I have ordered a high-level inquiry into this unfortunate incident which puts a question mark over the authenticity of the structural audit of bridges carried out across the city”. He also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the family of the deceased and said: “A high-level committee will probe the circumstances under which the 40-year-old over-bridge collapsed.”
But why the incidents that can be avoided should even occur in the first place? Had the audit suspected the fault, this collapse could’ve been avoided. The bridge was created to cater to the population that lived in the city 40 years back. Since then the population in Mumbai has increased tremendously to 1.84 crores (according to 2011 census). In between this period any such structure requires time to time audit and repair. There is no reason to wait until the railway bridges are being packed to the point of stampede (referring to the Elphinstone tragedy) or collapse.
“There is a prima facie reason to believe that the structural audit has been conducted irresponsibly and negligently. This tragedy could have been avoided if the structural audit had been done diligently,” said the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) vigilance department’s preliminary report.
What can be done for prevention?
A before falling any structure gives enough warnings like cracks or corrosion, these warnings need to be identified through regular inspections. Priorities the structures according to their situation. Also, while construction the quality of raw materials should be maintained, like the painting of steel structures as it prevents them from getting rusted. The government or the respected authorities should plan on building substitutes so that the load can be shared, which will reduce the chances of and tragedy.