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‘Army Can’t Be On Speed Dial’

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Army roped in to build Mumbai bridge near Elphinstone Road station because of urgency: Nirmala Sitharaman

Mumbai:  The Army will help build a new bridge at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road train station, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced today as union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal visited the site where 23 were killed in a rush hour stampede a month ago. The move has provoked sharp criticism with some commenting that the Army “can’t be number one on speed dial”.

“The Army said they can build a bridge in a short span… We are taking the Army’s help in building a new foot overbridge at the Elphinstone Road station and at two other suburban train stations in Mumbai,” Mr Fadnavis told reporters.

Work on these bridges will be completed by January 31, he said. The Army reportedly surveyed the area earlier this month.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that while the Army “has its role at the borders”, it was roped in because of the urgency in this case.

“I wanted to know the Army’s view. We know that the Army rushes to places where there are natural disasters… This is probably for the first time, the Army was asked to come in to build what could otherwise be called civil work, but the Elphinstone tragedy was so big,” Ms Sitharaman said, adding that the Army is “happy to help” as it feels it is contributing to nation-building.

The deadly stampede broke out on September 29 at the old, narrow bridge currently connecting two of the busiest stations in Mumbai – the Elphinstone Road and Parel stations. A large crowd had poured into the bridge that was already bursting with people taking shelter from the sudden downpour.

The Army has been known to step in for urgent construction work in the past, but the move to commission the forces for the construction of a bridge in Mumbai has drawn  flak. Among those who have raised questions is Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, a former Army officer.
 

 

In 2010, when Delhi hosted the Commonwealth Games, the Army stepped in and rebuilt in record time a bridge that had suddenly crashed near a key stadium.

Last year, the Army built a floating bridge on the river Yamuna for Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s “Art of Living” event that was controversial because of environmental violations.

Earlier this year, a battalion was called in by the Ministry of Water Resources to keep a close watch on those throwing waste into the river Ganga.


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