Six persons died when a “safe” over-bridge collapsed in the heart of Mumbai on Thursday, and that must call into focus the quality of the safety-audits conducted for over-bridges in that city over the past year or so. For when facilities recently re-certified prove a source of disaster, the confidence of the common citizen in his government stands shattered. It matters little who was responsible for maintaining the “Himalaya” bridge linking the CST railway station with the major complex on Nauroji Road: when commuters use a bridge they could not be bothered if it was the civic body or the railway who owned them, so any blame-game between the two agencies is irrelevant. The cold fact remains that yet again has the citizen been betrayed ~ as he has been in virtually every city in the country. The nation is now in poll mode but it is unlikely that efficient civic management will become an election issue. The major parties have more pressing matters upon which to polarise society, six body-bags do not count for much in our politicians’ scheme of things, no VIP will attend any of those funerals, no political mileage would accrue from doing so. It would be rubbing salt into wounds, but aspirants to Parliament House would hardly allow themselves to be detained by anything as pedestrian as six deaths caused by crumbling infrastructure in a metropolis ~ maybe the stray cattle menacing city streets merit more protection than commuters condemned to use decrepit bridges, flyovers and what have you. Six deaths translate into too few votes to impact an election outcome.
Sure political leaders have issued statements, compensation payments have been announced, local police have registered cases and perhaps an arrest or two made. But what is the fate of those cases? Do the people know who “paid” for the collapses of flyovers in Delhi and Kolkata, the fire in a hotel in the Capital or the people crushed to death at Elphinstone Road in Mumbai? Ask Devendra Fadnavis, Mamata Banerjee or Arvind Kejriwal and a blank expression would be the likely response. A couple of months down the road the structural engineer who found nothing wrong with the bridge that took six lives (maybe more) in Mumbai could be handling other lucrative projects. Accountability is non-existent. Even the media will lose interest in the matter after a few days. The nation will boil in controversy over how many JeM militants the IAF’s Mirages “took out” at Balakot, cricketers will sport military-style caps, yet none will bother about two nurses who were killed when on their to way to night-duty in a Mumbai hospital. As a nation we have become callous and shameless. Maybe photographs of the nurses on poll posters might prove remedial. And enhance the value of human life: the two had possibly served society more than any of the 543 now jostling for a place in Parliament.