When commissioned, flyovers or traffic over-bridges prove a boon, eliminating bottlenecks and serving as shortcuts in choked streets: no wonder they are in favour with traffic authorities in most Indian cities.
Unfortunately, notoriously inefficient management has resulted in shortcuts being taken when building them, resulting in under-construction facilities actually becoming shortcuts to death ~ as happened in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Varanasi a few days back, the “pride” of West Bengal a couple of years ago, and even in the National capital.
The details of each disaster may vary, as do their death tolls, yet there is a common link ~ uncaring, inefficient, supervision by the civic authorities or the government.
Decades ago the highly-acclaimed Justice GD Khosla had observed that “there is no such thing as an accident, every ‘accident’ is the result of negligence” ~ the observation retains its validity, actually haunts.
And the gravity of the situation is not reduced by a hyper-active Trinamul MP re-tweeting what Mr Narendra Modi had quipped after the mishap at Vivekananda Road (Kolkata) two years ago ~ in fact it testifies to how little our politicians care when common folk are killed.
That superciliousness, alas, is something to which the Indian people are condemned. An official shunted out after the mishap at Varanasi claims that the death toll would have been lower had the traffic authorities banned vehicular movement when construction was in progress.
A Kolkata schoolboy ridiculed the design at Vivekananda Road saying anyone driving by could lean out of his car window and pinch a pen off a classroom desk.
And though all civic agencies have a battery of civil engineers far too many of them are tardy in supervising work undertaken by contractors, or line their pockets by clearing shoddy jobs.
The huge swindles during the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi will ever remain a blot on Sheila Dikshit’s government. Probes were ordered after every mishap ~ few culprits nailed. Hence the incompetence, or loot, persists.
Shameful construction cannot be perceived in isolation from other municipal malpractices. The courts/tribunals are flooded with complaints ranging from roads pock-marked with potholes, non-existent conservancy operations (Mr Modi recently lamented that the garden city had degenerated into a garbage city), overflowing dumps of municipal waste, even lakes catching fire ~ and these are basics, not as demanding as providing adequate water supply, sewerage or electricity.
Whether municipal bodies should continue under political control is perhaps debatable, what is not is the need for creating a specialised cadre of engineers and administrators for managing civic affairs.
If in pre-Independence days men of the quality of Lutyens, Baker and Bloomfield could “build” New Delhi, or then Le Corbusier could lay out Chandigarh, surely there is enough domestic competence to run our cities ~ provided their professionalism is not subjected to politicians’ whims.