Mumbai CSMT bridge collapse: BMC blames firm which conducted audit, activists demand accountability from politicos

A day after a bridge adjoining Mumbai’s iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) collapsed, killing six and leaving 31 injured, authorities are attempting to fix responsibility for the incident and to ascertain the causes behind it. Speaking to Firstpost, an expert on Mumbai’s railway network said, “The portion of the bridge that is inside the station was constructed in 1984. The structure was later extended across the adjacent DN Road.” He further said, “Weeks before an audit of the bridge took place in 2018, the BMC changed the tiles at the bridge. These tiles, which were heavier, may have played a part in the collapse of the structure.”

However, Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Commissioner of A ward in the BMC, said, “These are entirely baseless claims. After we received complaints from some citizens, we changed the old tiles and painted the new tiles. If the structural auditor found that the new tiles are heavy and are affecting the stability of the bridge, he should have brought it to our notice. He did not do so. At that time, the audit report merely said that the bridge needed minor repairs.”

Mumbai CSMT bridge collapse: BMC blames firm which conducted audit, activists demand accountability from politicos

Rescue work in progress after a foot overbridge near the CSMT station in Mumbai collapsed. PTI

In 2018, a firm named DD Desai’s Associated Engineering Consultants and Analysts Pvt Ltd concluded that the bridge was “in a fairly good condition.” However, it also said that concrete slabs showed the effects of corrosion, and cracks had formed on some of the railings.

The BMC, in its primary report on the incident on Friday, pinned the blame on the firm, concluding, “Prime facie, it is observed that the structural audit is not carried out correctly and major lapses are observed in conducting the structural audit of the bridge on the background of the sudden collapse of the bridge.”

The civic body has announced that the firm which carried out the audit will be removed from the list of empanelled structural auditors, and will be issued a show-cause notice for blacklisting. It will also file an FIR against the firm. Meanwhile, the BMC has also suspended two serving officers, while charges will be framed against three others who have now retired.

Bridge linked CSMT to important offices, markets

While officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) declined to give an estimate of the number of people who used the bridge on a daily basis, the CSMT station is among the busiest ones on the Mumbai suburban train network. It sees a daily footfall of about 6 lakh commuters, and it can be estimated that a significant percentage of these people had been using the bridge which collapsed on Thursday.

The bridge acquired the grim moniker of ‘Kasab bridge’ in 2008 after terrorists Ajmal Kasab and Ismail Khan were seen on the structure during the 26/11 attacks.

Lata Arghade, secretary of the Mumbai Rail Pravasi Sangh, said, “I had been using the bridge ever since it was constructed. On Thursday, when I walked across the bridge a couple of hours before the collapse, I felt it was a little shaky. However, I thought it might be because of my footwear or some such reason. After all, in the middle of the rush hour, one usually does not have the time to think much about these things. Fortunately, I was not at the spot when the bridge collapsed.”

Arghade pointed out, “A large number of people used the bridge, as it was a link between the CSMT station and some market areas and offices. People took it to go to the ‘killa court’ (chief metropolitan magistrate’s court), Crawford market, the police commissioner’s office, GT Hospital and other nearby places.”

She further said, “To prevent such incidents in the future, it is important that elected representatives are held to account, not just some junior officers. Also, it is not just councilors from the civic body who are responsible; MLAs and MPs are also responsible for ensuring that the problems of citizens are highlighted.”

In the initial blame game that ensued in the aftermath of the collapse, Shiv Sena MP Anil Desai said the bridge comes under the Indian Railways and the railways should have ensured the maintenance of the bridge (the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance rules the BMC). However, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said during an interaction with the media on Friday, “While a high-level inquiry will be carried out, I have asked the municipal commissioner to fix the primary responsibility for the incident and take action on the same. It is very shocking that such an incident occurred even after a structural audit was conducted.” This would indicate that maintaining the bridge was, indeed, the responsibility of the BMC.

This isn’t the first time a bridge has collapsed in Mumbai. In July, the Gokhale road overbridge which connected Andheri West and Andheri East collapsed, leaving one dead. After the collapse, IIT-Bombay, which conducted an audit of bridges over railway tracks in the city, recommended the closure of the Delisle Road overbridge in Lower Parel. It also recommended the repair or reconstruction of five other bridges: Frere ROB at Grant Road, Belasis ROB at Mumbai Central, Tilak ROB at Dadar, Carol ROB at Prabhadevi and a road overbridge at Mahalaxmi.

In October 2017, a portion of a skywalk, which was being repaired, caved in near the Charni Road railway station in south Mumbai. One person was injured in the incident. The accident occurred just weeks after a stampede at Elphinstone Road station (now renamed to Prabhadevi), in which 23 people died and many more sustained injuries.

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Updated Date: Mar 15, 2019 20:17:08 IST

Updated: March 15, 2019 — 3:02 pm