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Delhi Metro: A Narrative Of The Fight Between 2+ Decades Of Greatest Infrastructure And 21 Years Of Sheer Negligence!

Delhi Metro has consistently been awarded the title of one of the greatest infrastructures in the country. The transport system connecting every part of the national capital is one of the most critical aspects of the people of Delhi. However, behind the concept of the most incredible infrastructure hides the acts of consistent negligence of officials and government, ultimately costing the lives of the common public. And it is not the case for one or two years. This act of consistent negligence can be witnessed hovering around a decade of time. Who will be responsible for people who are losing their lives in these accidents? Are we heading towards such a powerful nation that the cost of someone’s life is a mere INR 25 lakhs? Or should the officials responsible for such an act be punished under criminal offences?

The Delhi Metro began operations on December 25, 2002, and has since become an essential component of the national capital’s public transit system. However, numerous pain points remain consistent. The recent collapse of a portion of the wall at Gokulpuri Metro Station is something to be concerned about. 

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has declared an ex-gratia of INR 25 lakhs to the next of kin of the 53-year-old man, Mr Vinod Kumar of Karawal Nagar, who died when a portion of the Gokulpuri Metro Station boundary wall (eastern side) collapsed in northeast Delhi on Thursday. Apart from that, several others got injured. The DMRC official said they have also decided to pay INR 1 lakh for minor injuries and INR 5 lakhs for grievous injuries.

2 DMRC officials, a manager and a junior engineer from the civil department have been immediately suspended pending enquiry. The Executive Director\Civil\O&M is at the site for a first-hand assessment of the situation apart from officials from all concerned departments,” said Delhi Metro spokesperson Anuj Dayal.

At first, it sounds a little satisfying that people who got injured or who have laid down their lives are not neglected by the government and have been taken care of. Also, the authorities in charge of duty have been suspended for their negligence, which means the government is taking action as well. 

But if you are a sensible person, you will be inclined to ask the question as to why such an accident took place. On the one hand, the government openly applauds the infrastructure developments in the whole country; on the other hand, the national capital itself doesn’t sound safe! Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot said the Delhi government directed the DMRC to constitute a committee of experts to investigate the wall collapse incident. After every incident, the government assures that they have formed the committee and that whatever wrongdoing was done will be rectified. But are the officials incompetent in observing the faults proactively, or is there an intention of deliberate negligence?

It was only last month that an inspection was done at Gokulpuri Metro Station, and everything was found to be good. Then how, within one month, did such a disaster occur? It was found that the station has dedicated staff to monitor maintenance at each station, conduct regular inspections once every two months, and perform daily visual assessments.

According to DMRC officials, there is a Civil Maintenance department in Operations and Maintenance led by an Executive Director level officer, with officials assigned to each station and other civil structures. Civil structures get frequent inspections to ensure their safety. However, the portion of the wall at the Gokulpuri metro station that collapsed escaped all these checks so that the commoner could witness the negligence of the DMRC officials.  

As a common citizen who is paying taxes and contributing majorly to the growth of the economy, several questions need to be answered by the Delhi Metro officials. 

Gokulpuri metro station, located on the Pink Line, was opened in 2018. In such a situation, questions are being raised about the platform wall collapsing so quickly. After this accident, people have started asking questions regarding technology and construction in the metro. In the internet media, people are expressing concern to the metro management regarding the safety of passengers. In such a situation, the quality and maintenance of construction materials has come under question.

About the ex-gratia that was declared to be given, is INR 25 lakh the cost of the individual who lost his life because of officials on duty? How this ex-gratia money will be given? Why shouldn’t this money be given from the pockets of people who are responsible for such an accident and not from public funds?

Is the wall collapse because of the low-quality materials used to construct the structure? What will the consequences be if the entire metro infrastructure, including significant segments of the metro infrastructure, comprises such low-quality materials? Are we riding under a death rail? 

On the other hand, a passenger wrote that there was water leakage in Sarojini Nagar station of Pink Line; if this is not paid attention to in the beginning, then a big accident can happen here in the future.

If this is the single time such an incident occurred, then the below list will hint about the negligencies of officials.

Recall a year ago incident, from February 2023, when a piece of shuttering fell from an under-construction metro pier onto the vehicle at Haiderpur Badli, and the driver who was sitting inside the car got severely injured. Isn’t that, again, an act of sheer negligence?

A similar catastrophe occurred in July 2008, when a malfunctioning crane at the Metro construction area near Ram Monohar Lohia hospital dropped a four-tonne iron beam onto a passing Tavera car. While the driver, Manoj, was trapped inside the vehicle for some time and suffered several fractures, another passenger received minor injuries.

Delhi: Metro pillar collapses, car crushed, two injured |
Delhi: Metro pillar collapses, car crushed, two injured |

In September 2017, a metro train carrying people travelled between Chawri Bazar to Kashmiri Gate stations on the Yellow Line, with one of its gates open. It was a rare incidence because the metro operating system requires trains to leave a stop with all doors locked. According to Delhi Metro officials, the incident only affected one entrance, which was guarded by DMRC staff. 

A similar occurrence occurred in July 2014 when a train ran with all doors open between Ghitorni and Arjangarh stations on the same line. The train operator was suspended for “safety lapses.”

In July 2009, In one of the worst accidents involving Delhi Metro, a bridge under construction in a congested area of south Delhi collapsed Sunday, killing five people, including an engineer, and injuring 15 others. A construction worker stated that there were cracks in the pillar and that the contractor and officials had been notified about them, but they paid no attention, demonstrating the officials’ carelessness.

A similar disaster occurred in October 2008, when a piece of the Delhi Metro’s under-construction bridge collapsed and fell on passing vehicles, killing two people and injuring 17.

This is not the complete list. Many such accidents may be termed minor in the books of Delhi metro accounts; however, the individuals who have lost their lives or who have succumbed to injuries will have a lifelong trauma of metros, which is supposed to be a matter of pride and development. 

Chakraborty

Writer

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