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48 lives, 1 line...
DMRC needs to ‘chin’ up its act

Imagine a Delhi, where all major city points are neatly interconnected with each other through metro rail; safe, fast and modern. Now back to reality – look at what we are receiving in the bargain – complicated traffic diversions and accidents galore!

Not only will the Delhi Metro most probably remain unprofitable till time immemorial (public transport services have had this loss background globally) but sadly, the Delhi Metro might also become one of the biggest worker casualty projects. The first mishap, which killed two people, was hardly an eye opener and was forgotten as an anomaly. But a series of incidents followed, killing 48 construction workers and injuring 98 others (the construction of the Kolkata Metro Rail way back on October 4, 1984, reported lesser casualties). The most recent mishap took place near Lady Shri Ram College, when a metal construction bridge collapsed, immediately killing 6 people, and injuring many more. These accidents cause not only loss of lives, but also loss of property. In the last case mentioned above, the total loss amounted to a massive Rs.60 million.

One reason forwarded for such deaths is the speed with which such projects are being completed, in line with the Commonwealth Games, which is scheduled to commence in October 2010. Another reason relates to outsourcing. The construction work is outsourced to third parties by DMRC on a contractual basis. Although they have an obligation to adhere to strict quality controls, third party firms might not have the same ethical inclination towards the welfare of workers.

There is obviously the Construction Workers Act of 1996, and E. Sreedharan is a great example of ethical behaviour and professional deportment. Notwithstanding that, the blame for accidents has to be shared by DMRC, which has lapsed on monitoring the project implementation. Construction deaths happen worldwide (UCATT, UK’s largest construction union, says construction is the most dangerous industry in UK – 70 odd deaths occurred last year); but with around 8 to 10 lakh workers working on the DMRC project, the company needs to take an active viewpoint of how to reduce deaths dramatically. It’s a case of 48 lives, 1 line...

By:- Sray Agarwal

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