The development of under-development becomes still more pronounced in Kolkata with the closure of the Ultadanga flyover which had collapsed in 2013.

It is a measure of the fragile patchwork that six years later, several piers have developed cracks and including the one that was repaired. In the net, the city’s link to the airport and beyond via VIP Road has been partially snapped. From the collapse of the Posta Bazar flyover in 2016 to Ultadanga via the Majerhat bridge collapse, the loop of such mishaps has lengthened further still.

It is more than a little surprising, therefore, that KMDA wasn’t aware of the recent cracks till it was alerted by the consulting agency which is auditing the project. Whatever the findings of the nine-member advisory committee, it is direly imperative that the cracks are repaired with urgent despatch without any further discourse on whether this flyover should be repaired fully or partially. Prudence would suggest that a proper repair must precede the reopening and the matter affords no scope for a convoluted exercise in self-deception. And if this entails the closure of the so-called “slip road” for a while, so be it.

But the KMDA must of necessity get to the bottom of the matter, specifically why the repaired pier has been damaged yet again. And with it, a few other piers too. To underline the “pressure imbalance” between the steel girder and the pier is merely to take recourse to technical jargon ~ “After one of the steel girders crashed, it was replaced with a new one and a load imbalance might have resulted in the cracks,” is the official reaction. The overall negligent nonchalance towards the crucial task of maintaining the flyovers that criss-cross the city, is painfully evident once more. Of course, the topography of the city has been transformed beyond recognition. For all that, the suffering of the citizen counts for little in the overall construct, most particularly in relation to what has been fashioned as urban renewal and in the name of Jawaharlal Nehru. As often as not, the exercise has turned out to be a case of urban regression.

Even officials are bamboozled. Normally, a flyover doesn’t develop any major damage in its internal structure and remains stable for 25 to 30 years. But in the case of the Ultadanga flyover, cracks have developed on the retaining wall in just nine years. Cracks have even been detected on one of the piers that was repaired after the girder collapse in 2013. Alas, both the construction and repair have been perilously skewed.

Considering that this flyover was inaugurated on 5 January 2011, it was shaken to its foundations in 2013 and has shown signs of fragility in 2019. Essential infrastructure has turned out to be brittle, to say the least. The parable is obvious ~ a litany of unlearnt lessons