Friday, April 1, 2016

An Act of God or Man Made Corruption?

“India Kolkata Flyover Collapse: Hope fading for survivors”- BBC News

“21 dead as Kolkata flyover collapses”- The Hindu

In 2008, the CPI(M) Govt. in West Bengal commissioned a flyover in one of its most congested areas, Girish Park. The 2km flyover passing over Vivekanand Road was supposed to be ready by 2011 but eventually missed 3 deadlines and at the time of collapse was still under construction. With state elections just days away, this disaster has become a political issue. Mamata Banerjee, the current Chief Minister of WB from the TMC (Trinamool Congress) Party has passed the buck for the unfortunate mishap to the previous govt. The Hyderabad- based firm, IVRCL (Iragavarapu Venkata Reddy Construction Limited) responsible for the construction of this flyover has been booked for culpable homicide by the West Bengal Police Department.

While the disaster is of gargantuan proportion, unfortunately the construction company has shown little respect for the lives lost due to the flyover collapse. K Panduranga Rao, Group Head (HR and Admin), IVRCL told reporters that “It’s nothing but a God’s act. So far in 27 years we have constructed several number of bridges…it (collapse) has never happened”. This, especially when concerns were raised on quality and safety issue of the flyover.  There were hundreds trapped under the huge iron and steel girders and the debris until the morning of 1st of April, 2016. Two IVRCL engineers are also feared trapped under the mountain of debris, along with 5 others who are injured.

The Rescue Efforts

Army men along with Kolkata Police Disaster management team, NDRF (National Disaster Response Force) and fire fighters have been working round the clock to pull out victims. 24 have been confirmed dead, and from the 90 rescued many are in critical condition. People from the Burra Bazaar area, around the flyover, in an apparent display of humanity, have been serving tea and snacks to rescuers and the rescued. The ones being successfully pulled from under the debris have been rushed to nearby hospitals.

Reasons behind such tragedies

IVRCL, the company, responsible for construction of the flyover, a portion of which collapsed on the 31st of March, has yet to ascertain the cause of collapse. According to them standard operating procedure has been followed, where 78% of the work was completed without accident. They claim that the flyover was designed by a reputed consultant from Kolkata and all clearances and steps to ensure quality had been taken. The work was commissioned for Rs. 166 crores and was missing deadlines due to lack of clearances as the Burra Bazaar area is extremely crowded. However, the fact remains that a concrete structure will collapse if the deadweight calculation is faulty and therefore there are cracks due to design flaws. There is also the accusation of usage of substandard material, inadequate quality inspections; and this is a problem across many construction projects in India.

There have been similar disasters across the world like the one in 1958 in Canada, Vancouver, where the cause was diagnosed to be miscalculation of weight bearing capacity. In Melbourne, Australia in 1962, a bridge collapsed due to fractures in the pillars due to extreme cold weather conditions. Then again in Belgium in 1966, a bridge had collapsed due to faulty design, where the foundation of the piers was not deep enough.

While forensic team is doing its investigation, the Vivekanand Flyover collapse seems to be a combination of the all the reasons mentioned above, in addition to poor quality construction material. The guilty need to be booked and efforts should be made to prevent future disasters which are man-made and could have been easily prevented for want of honesty, ethics and intelligence.

- Ms. Monica Mor

  Senior Faculty, INLEAD

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