Kolkata flyover collapse: Who is to be blamed?

The following article is based on my own interpretation of the said events. Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced. I will bear the sole responsibility for anything that is found to have been copied or misappropriated or misrepresented in the following post.

Ruchi Patel, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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On 31st Mar 2016, as most of us were watching India vs West Indies ICC WT20 semi-finals a flyover collapsed in North Kolkata near the congested Ganesh Talkies area resulting into a man-made disaster. 14 were initially reported dead as the under-construction flyover collapsed. The death toll was expected to rise as many trucks, passenger vehicles and rickshaws were seen buried under the collapsed structure.

Fire brigade, disaster management personnel and police rushed to the site of collapse and started the rescue work. Those trapped under concrete and metal were being rescued with bare hands by the residents and the fire-fighters. 2 units of Army’s National Disaster Response Force were also deployed.

The 2.2 km flyover that collapsed was expected to be one of Kolkata’s longest, connecting Girish Park in north Kolkata to Howrah. The responsibility for building the flyover was with the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority. The flyover was commissioned in 2009 (to be completed by 2013); however, its construction had been delayed 6 times.

The blame game started as the news of the collapse spread across the country. One of the two BJP parliamentarians from West Bengal, Union Minister Babul Supriyo blamed the government for building a flyover that was not properly planned. He called the state government ‘callous’ and questioned how a flyover had been allowed to come-up in a residential area. Mamata Banerjee washed her hands off the tragedy saying that the “flyover was tendered in 2008 during CPM rule.”

On April 1st, 2016 it was declared that at least 23 people were killed and two were critical among the 85 injured in the flyover crash. CM Mamata Banerjee said local residents and personnel of the army, government, administration, NDRF and police worked together for the rescue. Officials said that the clearance of debris would take two-three more days, and urged residents to help rescue workers.

A sub-contractor to whom IVRCL(company responsible for construction of flyover) had given some parts of the flyover work is also being investigated. The company has denied any compromise with quality of work, or a design defect.

On April 2nd, 2016 the structural experts and civil engineers said that the Kolkata flyover collapsed due to a design flaw. The experts said that the cantilevered design of the T-shaped flyover was where the flaw lay (cantilever bridge rests on structures that hang horizontally into space on one end). The experts negated the construction company’s claims that the collapse was an ‘act of God’.

Kolkata police opened a case of culpable homicide against the company that had been building the flyover.  Also, two officials including a chief engineer of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA), which was responsible for supervising work at the Vivekananda flyover, were suspended. A sub-contractor to whom IVRCL had given some parts of the flyover work is also being investigated. The company has denied any compromise with quality of work, or a design defect.

P Sita, the legal team head of IVRCL said, “We are also shocked that flyover collapsed and want to know why it happened. This is an accident, how can we fix responsibility on someone”. K Panduranga Rao, group head (human resource and admin) of IVRCL said, “It’s nothing but a God’s act. So far in 27 years, we have constructed several number of bridges…such accident never happened”.

On the other hand the Chief Minister shirked the blame by saying, “The tender was awarded during the Left rule. We did not know anything about it”.

At least 23 killed and over 85 injured, still we have no clue about who is responsible for the grave disaster.

Image Source: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/the-sunday-story-flying-under/

 

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