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Elphinstone Road: ‘Will Army fill potholes too?’: Opposition slams Elphinstone bridge plan | India News

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NEW DELHI: The Maharashtra government’s decision to rope in the Army to construct a bridge in Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road train station, the site of a deadly stampede which claimed the lives of 23 people last month, is facing backlash from the opposition.

Earlier today, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that the Indian Army’s engineering wing will design and build new foot overbridges at Elphinstone Road and two other train stations by January 31, 2018. Flanked by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Railways minister Piyush Goyal, Fadnavis surveyed the Elphinstone Road station to take stock of the improvement works in progress post-stampede.

“After Elphinstone stampede incident, we had asked for help from armed forces and Defence Minister. She agreed to help us and three bridges will be constructed by 31 Jan,” said Fadnavis, while addressing mediapersons.

No sooner was the plan made public that the leaders of opposition parties targeted the government for calling in the Army to perform a civil work which falls under the domain of the Railway ministry.

Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam slammed the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena combine and wondered if the government will next dial the Army for menial chores like filling potholes in the city’s roads.

While acknowledging the Army’s vital role at the borders, Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave the rationale that the seriousness of the Elphinstone tragedy had necessitated that the armed forces oversee the construction of the bridge.

“This is probably the first time we have asked the Army to come in to build what could otherwise be called civil work, but Elphinstone tragedy was so big. A call was taken to cooperate, seeing urgency of the matter as the Army has its role at the borders,” Sitharaman said.

Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh panned the decision, pointing out to the defence minister that it would divert defence resources to civilian jobs and set a “bad precedent”.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah remarked that it was becoming the norm to call in the Army to perform civilian works not requiring their expertise.

The former J&K chief minister was probably alluding to when the Army was pressed into service to construct a bailey bridge in Kerala’s Enadu. In another instance, the Army also built a foot overbridge in place of a collapsed one near Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Updated: October 31, 2017 — 2:40 pm

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