New Delhi: Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday said the government’s move to call in the army to rebuild the Elphinstone foot over bridge and two other bridges was a decision taken holistically.
When asked as to why the army’s engineering unit was deployed and not railway engineers to rebuild Mumbai’s Elphinstone pedestrian bridge which collapsed after a stampede on September 28 last year, Goyal said “nobody in the government sector could have done that.”
“I took that decision with a holistic view. It was a very sad and painful tragedy. I spent two days understanding what could be done to ensure that such issues don’t recur,” he said during a question and answer session at the ANI-organised India Infracon 2018 conclave.
“It was my Bombay BJP president Ashsish Chela who first came up with the idea, and I acknowledged it. Then, I talked to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. She said that army would be absolutely happy to serve India and its people and this is really a serious issue which we need to address quickly,” he added.
He candidly admitted that the Railways would have taken more time to rebuild the bridge as it did not possess its own equipment and workers.
“Railway does not have workers or equipment of its own. We have to go through a tendering process, get a contractor who works on his own speed. The army knows how to work in these trying circumstances. The army has its own equipment.. They have ready bridges design by their engineers and kept for an emergency. They don’t have to do contracting. So, workmen, equipment and material to make a bridge are available. So, they can do it in three months,” he added.
Equating the Elphinstone incident, which claimed the lives of 23 people and injured 35 others, with any other natural calamity, Goyal said, “Anything that happens in the nation internally is considered a calamity. This was no less than a calamity for the families of the people who lost their lives in the incident.”
He further said that the deployment of the army for the construction of bridge worked as a skill development process.
“We also sent officers from 17 (railway) zones to see the work. So, it was like a skill development programme. It was like a training of my engineers to know how things can be done faster,” he added.