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City needs a safety net

In what is now becoming a depressingly familiar disaster scenario, a section of the Mumbai metro bridge collapsed in Andheri yesterday, resulting in casualties and injuries. It is shocking how many incidents have taken place resulting in fatalities and casualties during several big-scale infrastructure projects.

In what has now become a cynical scoffing of the aftermath of such incidents, disasters like these are followed by the usual pass-the-buck, some compensation for victims, a committee formed to ‘investigate’ the cause of the accident and the end result is usually zilch, as we fail to learn from our mistakes.

Some time ago, our reporters had visited various infrastructure sites scattered across the city and just a handful of them had subscribed to minimum safety norms. In several places, one could see workers without mandatory helmets or hard hats, working at the site. Some had been wearing helmets but were without a safety harness or buckle and were working at a height on under-construction buildings. In certain cases, the area below the construction had not been clearly demarcated or cordoned off for traffic and pedestrians.

In a traffic-choked city, this is a huge challenge but imperative to prevent accidents that are simply waiting to happen. In several instances, a safety net below could prevent possible calamities.

It is time authorities start cracking the whip about safety norms and, more importantly, clearly define parameters that ensure no accidents happen.
In this city, where large scale construction on residential and civic infrastructure is everywhere, it is important to strike the right balance — construction proceeding at the required pace, while ensuring safety measures from the very beginning. One cannot wake up from a self-induced coma, after disaster strikes. Sadly, in many cases, even heinous accidents are not enough to make those in charge change their ways. Besides, the public also needs accountability.

Would the person responsible for the current disaster be brought to book? We need to net the big fish, not the small man who inevitably pays the price.  

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