Delhi Metro Rail Corp. Ltd (DMRC) managing director E. Sreedharan has done well in withdrawing his resignation. The Metro man quit on Sunday after an accident involving an under-construction bridge of the Delhi Metro. He decided to stay after being persuaded by the Union and state governments.
Sreedharan’s intent was clear: He accepted moral responsibility for the accident that resulted in the death of six persons in south Delhi. The motives of the Union and state governments were clear as well: They can ill afford to lose the person who has steered the Delhi Metro for the past 12 years and has moved it from success to success. There is no reason for Sreedharan to call it quits when a large number of politicians have not shown any remorse for far more egregious acts, let alone resign from their positions.
Things have, however, moved on. A day after the resignation and the collapse, another accident occurred at the site of the original accident on Sunday, when clearing work at the site was on. So far, the entire complement of the Delhi Metro, DMRC and various contractors, have shown that quality of work and speed of project work are not mutually exclusive. That link now stands broken. It also raises several questions: Did an externally imposed target—that of speeding up the Metro project—have a role to play in this and other accidents? Who is accountable for these mishaps: the contractor or both the contractor and DMRC? Can such accidents be prevented in projects as complicated as the Delhi Metro? These are questions that Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit must answer.
While there is no doubt that the chief executive of a large public sector utility project cannot be expected to inspect every pillar, span and pier cap on top of the pillars, the question to be asked is, where are the weak links in the chain of accountability? At the moment DMRC faces intense media scrutiny. This, however, should not be allowed to degenerate into an administrative witch-hunt. Mere prosecution of some functionaries won’t prevent such accidents from recurring. The answer is to quietly find the problem areas and set them right.
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