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March 15, 2019 09:55 PM | Economy

Here is what experts have to say about blame game over crumbling bridges in Mumbai

Outrage, anguish and the usual blame game has gripped Mumbai after six persons were killed and 31 injured after a section of a foot overbridge near a busy train station in south Mumbai collapsed during evening rush hour on Thursday.

Crumbling bridges are becoming a part and parcel of life in India's financial capital. This was the third bridge to fall in the 18 months claiming a total of 31 lives and just like the previous incidents, the finger pointing is on in full swing.

Here are the two facts that expose the apathy, just 6 months back, an audit report had certified that the bridge was in "good condition" and had proposed only ''minor repairs" and the BMC now says the bridge was built from 1984 to 1986 but the consultant showed the construction date as 1998.

The Mumbai police put the blame squarely on the civic body BMC, the richest in the country. The BMC has just released a preliminary report pointing fingers at the auditor. An enquiry has been launched against two retired civic engineers and two officials have been suspended.

Money is not an issue for the BMC but implementation clearly is. 10 percent of its total budget of over Rs 30,000 crore is for infrastructure development but, as of December, the BMC had used only 47 percent of its overall budget.

Why can't the civic authorities get their act together? The city contributes about 6 percent to India's GDP, 33 percent to the country's total direct tax revenue but the BMC takes on average 48 days to address a single complaint. The BMC received 92,000 complaints in 2017.

To discuss this Archana Shukla is in conversation with Subodh Kumar, former commissioner, BMC; Sayli Udas-Mankikar, senior fellow, ORF; Anjali Bhardwaj RTI activist and Shaina NC, spokesperson, BJP.

Subodh Kumar said, “This is a manmade disaster. The bridge was 35-years-old so one can understand it has lived its life. But bridge can last even 50 years also so they are supposed to be inspected every year after they become of a certain age. In this particular case, the auditor report said that everything is fine. If everything is fine then the bridge will not collapse. Either the report is written wrongly that means no test has been carried out.

Anjali Bhardwaj said, “What this particular report points toward is a complete crisis of accountability. Because if you look at what has happened is in 2013 the bridge underwent the whole process of renovation and then in 2016 there was supposed to be an audit which took place. What we are seeing now is this bridge has collapsed costing human life. So, clearly every step of the way there is a problem of accountability."
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