Kolkata bridge collapse : The blame game begins

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 Any material borrowed from published and unpublished sources has been appropriately referenced.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.

Ankur Thakur, MBA 2015-17, Vinod Gupta School of Management, IIT Kharagpur

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They heard a sudden, explosive sound and then it came crashing down – say people who saw a section of Vivekananda Road flyover in Kolkata’s Girish Park area cave in at 12.30 pm Thursday, March 31st leaving at least 25 people dead and nearly 90 recuperating in different hospitals.

Launched by the Left Front government in 2009, the flyover is a Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority project that was nearing completion. Three months before the polls that year, then CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had inaugurated the project, setting a deadline of 18 months.

On Thursday, electoral politics once again occupied center stage as a visibly agitated Mamata Banerjee rushed in, cancelling short her poll rally in West Midnapore district. Announcing instructions to the police, she reiterated that this project was started “during the Left Front regime, not ours”. Others in the party, like TMC’s Kolkata North Member of Parliament Sudip Bandyopadhyay, under whose jurisdiction the Assembly falls said that “there were flaws in the design from inception and locals had even complained,” which he conveyed to the state government. But no one from TMC has spoken about the government’s own responsibility in ensuring that safety protocols were followed.

The Left has in turn accused Mamata Banerjee of deflecting responsibility. On Tuesday, April 5th, BJP sought to corner West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the flyover collapse in Kolkata, claiming that Railway Ministry under her stewardship had awarded a contract in 2011 to the same firm which is facing a probe in connection with the incident. The contract of over Rs. 761 crore for building a tunnel connecting Kashmir and Jammu regions was given by her before she quit as a Railway Minister to become the state Chief Minister in May, 2011 and the Ministry was given to another Trinamool Congress leader, he said.

The impact of this tragedy might be substantial within the constituency itself, and possibly in Kolkata but it is unlikely that Trinamool Congress’s chances outside Kolkata will be hampered a great deal by the collapse of the flyover. A lot will depend on the extent to which different parties are able to bank on the questions raised by the collapse of the flyover and see if they resonate in rural Bengal. What happens in Kolkata, in the past has been limited to the city.

While we have inklings as to who might stand to gain even from a tragedy as colossal as this one, we haven’t actually asked perhaps the most important question- will any of the culprits actually stand to lose anything? Or will they escape scot-free, their crimes forgotten and buried in the rubble that will soon be cleared away and life will go on as if nothing ever happened?

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