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“Potholes Too?”: Jibes Fly as Army Made to Build Bridges in Mumbai

Contrary to Defence Minister’s claim, this isn’t the first time the army has been called in to carry out civil work.

Updated
India
4 min read
Social media erupts in outraged messages after the army was called in to build foot over bridges at Mumbai’s stations.
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The army will help build a new foot-over-bridge at the Elphinstone Road station in Mumbai, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Tuesday, 31 October, as Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal visited the station where a deadly stampede took place last month.

Fadnavis, who accompanied Defence Minister Sitharaman and Railway Minister Goyal, said the army will also help build foot-over-bridges at two other stations – Currey Road and Ambivali.

Reacting to the flak the government has been receiving for this decision, chief spokespersons of Western Railway Ravinder Bhakar and spokesperson for Central Railway Sunil Udasi said the army was a preferred choice in times of crises in all the countries across the globe, reported Business Standard.

Also Read: Elphinstone Tragedy | 30 New Over Bridges to be Built: Rail Min

‘Armies Have Expertise in Dealing With Severe Crisis’: Railway Spokespersons

According to the Business Standard report, the Railway spokespersons said the army has expertise in building roads and developing infrastructure.

"Not only the Indian Army, but armies across the globe, whenever a country faces a severe crisis, they come forward to help the people," Bhakar said.

We have many cases wherein the army was roped in to rescue the needy during crises. The Savitri river bridge in Raigad district was swept away and the army joined the rescue mission.
Ravinder Bhakar

“We should not confine the role of our armed forces merely to keeping a vigil on the highest battle ground of the world, Siachen, or fighting cross-border terrorism. Our armed forces have always been at the service of the needy during crisis situations in every point of time,” said Sunil Udasi.

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Not the First Time Army Has Carried out 'Civil Work'

Speaking to the press at the spot, Sitharaman said the army had been called in for the “first time for what could otherwise be called civil work, owing to the scale and impact of the tragedy.”

However, her claims are untrue, as this isn’t the first time the military has been called in to carry out ‘civil work.’

Last year, Hindustan Times reported that the army built a pontoon bridge on the Yamuna for the Art of Living Foundation’s upcoming World Culture Festival. And according to The Hindu, in 2010, they built a 95-metre-long bailey bridge at the Commonwealth Games main venue.

Chief Minister Fadnavis, in turn, appeared quite optimistic about the foot-over-bridge (FoB) project, according to PTI.

We are taking the army’s help in building a new FoB at the Elphinstone Road station and at two other suburban train stations in Mumbai. I have been informed that the work on these bridges will be completed by 31 January.
Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra
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Twitter Spews Ire Over Decision

Not everyone is happy with this move. Civilians took to social media with outraged messages about how it was demeaning to the army to carry out such work.

Sarcastic messages from leading military, political, and media personalities were aplenty, with many asking whether the government will ask the army to come fill potholes next. Most of the people posting these messages seem to believe that the Railway Ministry is just ‘dumping’ their workload and responsibilities on the army instead.

That wasn’t all.

Requests asking the government to learn from its mistakes, surfaced as well.

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Shiv Sena Ridicules BJP’s ‘Empty Promises’

Meanwhile, BJP’s ally, the Shiv Sena, too took a dig at the government perceived inability to build a foot-over-bridge, accusing them of making “empty promises.” Speaking to ANI, Sena MP Arvind Sawant said:

The municipal corporation has given money to the Railways since 2008, but they haven’t been able to construct one small foot-over-bridge till now. So, they know that they themselves won’t be able to make it. That is why they took the help of the armed forces.

Later in the day, Shiv Sena’s youth leader Aaditya Thackeray took to Twitter to “put BMC’s record straight.”

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After the stampede on 29 September, Railway officials posted police personnel to manage the crowd on busy platforms, evicted hawkers from suburban train stations, and started speeding up infrastructure projects on the suburban network.

Army has come, inspected and assessed where the bridge is going to be built, they will be there at every stage of the work.
Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister, to India.com

Earlier in October, an inquiry report had blamed the heavy rains for the tragedy. Twenty-three people were killed in a stampede on the Elphinstone Road station foot-over-bridge last month.

Also Read: Mumbai’s Elphinstone Station’s History is Steeped in Neglect

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(With inputs from PTI and India.com.)

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