Close to two months after the collapse of the NoThe Road flyover, there is no statement yet from the West Bengal government on the reasons for the tragedy and the responsibility thereof. The matter was a major issue during the recent Assembly elections.
Sluggish indeed has been the investigation, the restoration work and the task of clearing the area of the debris.On April 15, the Chief Minister addressed an electionrally at Satyanarayan Park Rs close to the disaster site Rs for her party&’s candidates in Jorasanko and Shyampukur. Many among the locals were not interested in hearing the speech; instead they blamed the government for the disaster.
They felt that it is the government&’sresponsibility to execute the project and to ensure its safety.There have been reports in the press about the change in design and details ofthe flyover over the past five years. A new contractor, IVRCL, had been engaged with the approval of the state government and its agency, KMDA. IVRCL had engaged sub-contractors (allegedly close to theruling party) to do the actual construction work.
The present government is therefore responsible for design and decisions (technical and non-technical) that led to the collapse. It must reveal the facts and name the organisations, government and private, that are responsible for the collapse.
Action must be taken against them as per the law of the land. A discussion is required on the proper layout, design and supervision of this project because very little data is available in the public domain. It is not possible to discussthe technical facts and figures; these are with the government agencies and the contractor who had been engaged.
The decision to construct this flyover was taken in 2005 by the previous government; however, as per records, the then administration, through its letter dated October 17, 2005 changed the contractor and the project was awarded to KMDA, which was the main government agency in-chargeof the project. IVRCL was then assigned to carry out theconstruction. The project has been delayed by ten years, during which time there have been changes in design, layout and cost of construction.
The real estate syndicates allegedly worked as sub-contractors. These are among the critical issues that ought to be investigated and made public. Citizens have the right to obtain information on a public project on such matters as its justification, its design, its cost, its time-frame, name of the contractor, the name of the government agency and the officer incharge of the project.
Any changes in any one of these aspects must be brought to the notice of the people. Any specific information sought by the public must be made available. It is important to hold a public hearing in the locality before finalizing the layout and design. This affords an opportunity to the residents to express their opinion. Many of them are now complaining that the beams of the flyover are dangerously close to their homes. They would have raised objections had they known about this earlier.This flyover covers more than three-fourth of the roadspace, and the cantilever arm of the beams are within a footof the veranda and rooms of many buildings.
Such a layouts hould not have been approved by the authorities. The system of collecting information on “project affected people” (PAP) is very important; it is invariably followed in the case of projects constructed with loans from the World Bank andIBRD. In view of the fact that the flyover covers three-fourths of Vivekananda Road, the planners should have investigated whether it could have been built on some other road or even as an underground link. These options need to be examined before construction starts.
The state governments hould have informed the public as to why it had dropped the earlier contractor; what was the provocation for appointing another contractor; whether there would be any cost escalation for it is public money after all. And the public has the right to know these details. In reality, what has probably taken place is thelooting by the so called friends and syndicates spawned by the ruling party.There are national codes and statutory guidelines for the construction of roads and bridges.
A tender document is prepared for such a project, mentioning the technical tests that need to be carried out, the specifications and costs and other terms and conditions in order to complete the project as per technical standards and to execute it within the estimated cost. The most important aspects are the design, specifications, use of quality materials and testing of such materials, such as test certificates of the steel used.
The test reports must be prepared and checked by the supervising engineer; “cube test” for concrete must be carried out and the reports verified. Kolkata is dotted with flyovers. It is time to consider whether there are alternate ways to improve urban transportation.A fairly common and inexpensive option is to improve the present traffic operation and management system of the city and its periphery. As experts have stated, there is no efficient traffic system in the city. Clearing the congestion is merely a ‘fire-fighting arrangement’.
There is a need to install CCTV on all major roads. Kolkata needs to find alternatives to the flyover and theMetro. Both are expensive propositions, a drain on the public exchequer. No wonder the World Bank declined to provid ea loan to the Metro Railway. The citizens must be kept in the loop and involved in all public projects not least because these projects are undertaken with public money.