Sunday, July 12, 2009

Another accident in the Delhi Metro construction

When an accident happened in October 2008 in the Metro construction in East Delhi in which one of the sections of the under construction metro collapsed, killing 2 people, it seemed like a one-off thing. It was still a major shock for the Delhi Metro project, since the corporation believes that it is one of the safest and most reliable project executors in India. However, it was clear for the people living in areas where the metro was being constructed, that no matter how important the metro was to the overall transport situation in Delhi, there were some compromises being made so that the main projects can be ready in time for the Commonwealth Games. For example, on some of the ongoing metro line construction, the proud claim of the DMRC that they would ensure that roads would remain tip-top was no longer true. Roads that the Metro corporation built after removing their barricades were not level with the current roads, and had ditches and potholes; in a couple of cases it would seem that the DMRC put barricades long before work was being started. Now, for a huge majority of construction areas, DMRC was still much better than the other construction agencies such as PWD, CPWD, etc, but it was clear that their quality levels were starting to slip.
Today, the Delhi Metro construction zone had another accident. When the metal construction bridge was being loaded onto a pillar near Lady Shri Ram College, the whole setup collapsed, causing the death of 6 people, injuries to many more, and the loss of atleast Rs. 6 crore, along with a huge setback to the confidence of the Metro system. The problem is, there is a perception that in the rush to complete the various sections before the Commonwealth Games, quality is not being checked as much as is necessary, and this is demonstrated in the various other incidents that have happened when cranes have toppled, or barriers have fallen.
The DMRC has outsourced the construction to various private companies, and without knowing the level of supervision practices by the DMRC, it would seem that there are problems in ensuring that the quality levels need to be maintained. There are arguments that these are complex constructions, and a certain level of accidents are inevitable, but the building of overhead rail Metro links is a well established technology, and after that, it is all about ensuring proper project execution through strict compliance to quality norms and a detailed project management and execution process.
As of now, the news is that the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation head, the respected E Sreedharan has resigned claiming moral responsibility. Now E Sreedharan is a very well respected engineering oriented project head, and so far, not a single political party has called for his head. He is respected for his honesty and integrity, and the Government needs him to ensure that the various projects are on process for the Commonwealth Games. Further, the completed sections of the Delhi Metro are used by a huge number of people daily, and are part of the pride of Delhi, so it would real hard for the Government to accept his resignation, that too owing moral responsibility, since that would also sharpen the demands to claim the head of some political figure in Delhi for more moral responsibility. At the same time, since Sreedharan runs the DMRC project, he needs to ensure that quality norms remain in place and such incidents are properly analysed so that they do not recur. That is his moral and official responsibility.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:02 PM