NEW DELHI: Almost 20 people died due to flyover collapse over busy stretch of road in Varanasi on Tuesday evening. The government of the state did what every other government does: promising compensation and sacking a few officials.

(Varanasi flyover collapse, Source: PTI)

A local resident, Vinay Mishra described the tragedy as an accident which was waiting to occur. He said that the construction was taking place over a very busy and congested road with little safety precaution. The flyover was constructed from the Chowkaghat area during the regime of then Chief Minister Mayawati and ended at the roadways. Local people had protested that the constructed flyover would not give any relief to traffic jams on GT Road and instead cause a big problem at the entry of Varanasi Junction (Cantonment) railway station and at Cantonment Depot of Roadways.

When the next regime of Akhilesh Yadav came in, they tried to ease the pressure by sanctioning another flyover parallel to the old one extending up to Lahartara which was supposed to be the original plan but the work was very slow.

After the BJP government came to power they put pressure on the Uttar Pradesh (UP) State Bridge Corporation, the corporation responsible for the flyover, to complete it by this December. According to Vinay, a part of the Y-shaped pillar, over which the beam was being placed, was outside the barricaded area and even the welding sparks would fall below on the oncoming traffic. He said he preferred avoiding that route because of these dangers.

Having said that some of the blame also lies with the public for not following the traffic rules properly and trying to find shortcuts through the construction area.

Another resident Sanjeev, also said that proper precautionary methods were not taken. Both the residents have commended the State Government for taking quick action in suspending the officials but like everyone else they also await the result of the investigation taking place.

The bridge corporation, which had been lauded for its work in Indian cities as well as Iraq, Nepal and Yemen, had come under probe twice. Once a Public Works Department (PWD) engineer revealed that the Chillgahat Bridge built by the corporation at a cost of Rs 650 cr cracked within 13 days of its inauguration in 2010. An inquiry was ordered by the state government but no action was taken. In 2016, a cavity developed on the Lohia Bridge in Lucknow which was also built by the corporation. There again the State Government constituted a four-member committee to investigate the cause and even though the probe committee indicted several engineers for the poor quality of work, no action was ultimately taken. The same thing is expected to happen with Varanasi flyover collapse case, said Sanjay, a PWD worker when asked if he believes if there will be any effect of the probe committee set up by the state government.

Meanwhile, a senior UP Bridge Corp. official said that the beam falling down was due to a natural disaster, as reported in an article of Hindustan times. In the article, Ranjan Mittal, Managing Director of UP State Bridge Corp. said that the beam may have got dislodged from its socket because of the thunder-storm and fell. He also blamed the administration and police authorities for not heeding the corporation’s request in regulating and imposing traffic restriction. Hence, begins the blame game where different authorities blame each other and the investigative reports will go to the cold storage. According to Sanjay the thunderstorm had nothing to do with the accident and it was just the matter of safety precautions. He also said that the administration should have cordoned off the area, this is agreed by most of the localities.

This is not the first flyover disaster we have seen. Our nation has a history such ‘unfortunate accidents’. Last year in September in Bhubaneswar a similar accident had occurred. The flyover was being constructed over busy stretch and lack of proper administration was the reason which killed at least one person and several others were injured

(Kolkata flyover collapse 2016, Source: Reuters)

The Kolkata flyover collapse in March 2016 was another horrific incident. I’m a resident of north Kolkata and the flyover that collapsed is very near to my place. I had seen the rubbles and heard countless sirens of ambulances, police wagons and fire brigades.

Like the Varanasi case, we all knew it was a disaster waiting to happen but nothing was done about it. Few months later to this, in August was the incident in Maharashtra where an 88 year old bridge collapsed and bodies disappeared in the Savitri River. The collapsed bridge had surpassed its utility but the PWD allowed vehicular traffic through it. This was despite having constructed another bridge parallel to it in 2000. In 2015 in New Delhi, a portion of the Wazirabad-Janakpuri elevated corridor collapsed on to the road below, damaging three parked cars and injuring two people seriously, as reported in The Times of India. Another incident of Kolkata which took place in 2013 was breaking of a girder of Ultadanga flyover thereby causing the bridge to collapse.

Apparently the incident could have been avoided if an extra pillar had been built, speed limit had been restricted to 20kmph and preventing goods vehicles from accessing the flyover. The list of flyover disaster is very long and it dates back to 1981 and almost all of these unfortunate incidents could have been avoided if the administration, the company responsible and even the public have been more active and taken their job more seriously.

We all only wake up for a while when some big disaster takes place. Then after the initial few days of blaming everyone we return to our slumber state. No matter what the case, different officials will blame each other, investigation will never be followed through and this article like plenty other articles will be forgotten. Having said that it is important to raise awareness among the people and to inform so that it won’t be just another article.