Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh Flyover: A Kolkatta in offing?

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SRINAGAR: In the wake of collapse of the under-construction flyover in Kolkata, serious concerns have been raised here with regard to the under-construction Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh Flyover.

At least 15 people have been killed and around fifty injured after an under-construction flyover collapsed in North Kolkata near Ganesh Talkies (Girish Park), Thursday afternoon. Several are still trapped under the debris. The location of the bridge is in a densely populated locality in BarraBazar.

The officials connected with the construction of Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh flyover seem to have thrown caution to the wind as the circumstances that led to the Kolkota flyover collapse are somewhat identical here. 

“In the wake of an earthquake as feeble as 3 or 4 on Richter Magnitude Scale, the PSC grid beam can open up like a pack of cards and whosoever comes under it would simply be crushed,” said Suhail Ahmad, a construction contractor.

A surprised Suhail wonders how the officials have allowed the vehicular movement underneath the under-construction flyover. “All the time, the workers have one tool or the other in their hands and as a matter of chance, these can slip from their hands and cause serious injuries to the commuters,” he said. “There is a whole list of safety measures which the officials have criminally overlooked.”

Thousands of commuters are at high risk while passing through the Rambagh-Jehangir Chowk road as the work of the flyover is in progress, flouting construction and safety norms.  A nominal negligence can turn into a fatal mishap. 

Not only workers engaged in construction but local people and commuters can fall prey, thanks to the apathy of the construction company and the administration who seem to be awaiting a mishap before swinging into action.

“The construction companies have not barricaded the flyover sites,” local residents said. “Besides, they forget to install traffic signs at the sites to help commuters as well.”

The flyover, seems to be the ultimate solution of traffic snarls in this area, but in fact has increased the inconvenience of commuters manifold. Even, traffic movement at snails pace, has become a routing affair from morning till the evening, from the last several months.  

“We have taken a serious note of the Kolkotta incident and we shall have a detailed meeting with Mr Vinod Sharma who heads the Safety Management Committee to discuss threadbare the necessity of putting in place all the safety measures,” Divisional Commissioner Dr Asgar Samoon told Kashmir Observer.

A visit to the site reveals that blinkers at both ends of the flyover are non-functional. Pitiable condition of congested service roads with potholes, are not only restricting the vehicles to move dead slow but are also causing a great deal of problems.  In the absence of light poles, no alternate arrangements for light have been effected.

Moreover, the safety of property and human life, are on stake while continuing the construction work. Construction work is being carried out without helmets, shoes and safety belts. Heavy guarders with bearings, are being placed on pillar piers, placement and opening of iron scaffoldings for overhead slabs, welding works among more are going on without adopting safety measures, posing risk for commuters and the local people operating beneath the construction work.

“In a flyover construction, technically the vertical load safety measures are given priority over the horizontal one and that definitely can pose a serious danger to the people walking or commuting under it,” an expert in the civil engineering said on condition of anonymity. “I agree with you, the conditions that led to the Kolkotta disaster are identical here and an unfortunate mishap can prove deadly.”

He suggested the safety measures of the highest order must be put in place should we wish to see the completion of the flyover without any unfortunate mishap.

Former chief minister, Omar Abdullah while expressing similar apprehensions Thursday suggested a safety audit at flyover construction sites in the twin capitals of the state to prevent any such mishap.

“There are two flyover projects under implementation in the twin capitals of Jammu and Srinagar. While the Jammu project doesn’t really have much traffic passing right under it, the work site in Srinagar is a different story altogether,” Omar said. “The project in Srinagar allotted by Jammu and Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency to a private construction company passes over a major road of the city.”

“The road has shops on both sides and every day tens of thousands of people pass right beneath the under-construction flyover. An accident similar to the one in Kolkata would have devastating consequences in terms of loss of life and injuries to people,” Abdullah, the working president of National Conference (NC), said.

He appealed to state Governor NN Vohra to order a safety audit of the both flyover sites.

The prestigious Rs 369 crore Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh Expressway Corridor (flyover) project will be completed by March 2017 and will save approximately Rs 20 crores annually once the flyover is thrown open to public.

The project is being executed by Jammu and Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency (JKERA) with Simplex Infra Limited as project contractor.

Making Construction Site Safe

1.     Perform a thorough walk through of the site. Identify and assess any workplace hazards and write down anything that may be considered unsafe.

2.     Train all personnel in work-site safety and operating procedure either on-site or at a training facility.

3.     Identify and mark any hazardous materials.

4.     Inspect equipment to be sure it is working properly. Be on the lookout for unusual noises and jerky movements. Report any problems immediately and do not operate the machinery until repairs have been made.

5.     Use harnesses and other safety equipment when performing roof work or working on scaffolds.

6.     Provide personal protective equipment to all employees, including hard hats, safety goggles and boots, work gloves, ear plugs (or another form of protection) and face masks.

7.     Be sure OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards are met. Follow all recommendations and mandates from occupational health and safety inspectors. If you work for a private company, ask managers whether they’ve hired or contracted a health and safety inspector.

8.     Prepare for emergencies. Operators and site workers should know what to do in case of electrical, mechanical, power failures, or injuries.

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