The death of at least 24 persons and injuries to several others when a rain shelter collapsed at a crematorium on Sunday in Ghaziabad near Delhi is as callous as it gets. More shocking is the fact that the structure came up only recently, pointing to substandard construction and poor municipal oversight.
Ghaziabad falls in a seismically active zone. Extreme weather events also highlight the importance of robust safety audits in cities to prevent loss of life in building collapses. Unfortunately, corruption and underfunding have deprived urban civic bodies of the capacity and competence to handle such issues.
The contractor, a municipal officer, junior engineer and supervisor have been arrested and booked for offences like culpable homicide not amounting to murder, causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety, and breach of trust by public servant. These cases must be taken to their logical conclusion. More importantly, a conversation to improve urban governance must begin. The irony is that reforms targeting rural local self governance have made headway, but cities which are revenue spinners for governments must live with stagnating administrative structures.
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