Herald: Standing the test of time

Standing the test of time

20 Jan 2019 06:17am IST
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20 Jan 2019 06:17am IST

There’s a new date being given for the inauguration of the third bridge over the River Mandovi. That’s hardly surprising given that this bridge has seen numerous delays, having overshot its target completion date by over two years. So, a mere week’s delay in its inauguration is accepted without even the blink of an eye. But, have we ever paused to consider that this is an engineering construction that requires absolute precision, which we trust has been applied in the drawings and the construction. In a construction where even a miscalculation by a few millimetres can go wrong in the structure and so there is absolute certainty of the design, why can’t the same precision be applied to arriving at the date of completion of the project?

There were, admittedly, a few delays necessitated by the realignment due to environmental reasons and court directions. But as the completion of the bridge approaches can’t a firm date be announced and the construction company meet this date?

Six months ago it was announced that the bridge would be ready for inauguration on January 12, 2019. There were many eyebrows raised. On the week it was to be opened the date was moved to January 18 and has now been further postponed to January 26, which coincides with the country’s Republic Day. That’s this week, but the ground reality is that there are segments of the construction still incomplete. Will these be ready, or will a new date be announced in the coming days?

Notice that the dates for completion of the bridge project have always been announced by politicians or political appointees to government bodies and not by the construction company? Shouldn’t it have been the construction company that once the project was ready handed it over to the government or the government agency that contracted it, without any political interference? Perhaps if it had been the company that had to make the announcement it would have acted more responsibly and given a proper timeline for the completion of the project. But that is not happening, as credit for the project has to be taken by the political class, so bandying a date at irregular intervals helps keep the politician and the project in the news. 

Shifting deadlines is something this government has excelled at. Look at the past few months and see how many target dates have not been met. The government has extended the Swacch Bharat deadline to attain open defecation free status; every six months the cabinet extends by another half year the term of the offshore casino vessels to stay on the River Mandovi; there's now a letter from Goa to the Indian Olympic Association pointing out to the code of conduct for the Lok Sabha polls that will be in force during the period of the National Games and suggesting that it would be difficult to host the games, essentially it is seeking a postponement. The list is long and could go on, but it needs to stop somewhere, or else projects will always be getting postponed and costs will overrun.

The bridge will get ready when it does and not before that and inaugurated after that. Announcing dates that are then amended does not help hasten the project in any way, nor should it be speeded up for mere political reasons. Goa has survived without the bridge for years, a few more days will not throw the traffic situation out of gear. Let it be completed in its own time, but let there be no procrastination that this government has got accustomed to. The need for speed should not result in a construction that does not stand the test of time.

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