On 3rd July at around 7.30 in the morning a part of the pedestrian bridge collapsed on the railway track near Andheri suburban railway station in Mumbai. Just a few seconds earlier, a local train carrying thousands of passengers had passed below this bridge. The alert motorman of another packed local train which had just started from Andheri station stopped it with the help of emergency brakes, thus avoiding a very major calamity. It has been reported that 5 people have been injured due to this mishap.
After the mishap accusations were traded between the Brihan-Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Indian Railways. As more and more facts are being revealed it is becoming clear that both these institutions are responsible. Both have once again shown their complete callousness towards the safety of citizens.
Several bridges are more than 40 or 50 years old, but regular maintenance is not carried out. In fact, there are no records of any repairs carried out against an amount of Rs.23 lakhs deposited with the Railways for repairs and maintenance of bridges. Similarly, there is no evidence of repair works to the tune to Rs.103 crores deposited over the last 4 years with the Railways for the purpose. In the case of this bridge that collapsed, the BMC had issued orders for laying some 40 cables without any concern for its impact on the strength of the bridge. This has been pointed as one of the probable reasons for the collapse of the bridge.
After this recent incident the Railway Minister declared that safety audits of 445 pedestrian and other bridges which pass over the Mumbai suburban railway tracks will be conducted. He also declared that the report will be submitted within 6 months. But similar declarations were made by the Railway Ministry many times in the past. Such a declaration was made more than 8 years ago when in October 2009 a portion of a bridge had collapsed in Thane. As recently as last year, after the Elphinstone bridge collapsed, the same minister had made exactly the same declaration. But no such report has ever been made public.
From this incident it is once again getting highlighted that –
1. The safety of citizens counts for nothing to local bodies like Municipal corporations, State and Central governments, and to government corporations like the Indian Railways.
2. Elected representatives do not consider the safety of citizens as their prime responsibility
3. Indian law and current rules and regulations do not fix accountability and do not give any rights to citizens to enforce accountability for such a callous attitude of various government functionaries.
MEL denounces the Indian Railways as well as the Brihan-Mumbai Municipal Corporation for their callous attitude.