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NEW DELHI: The recent deadly roof collapse at New Delhi’s main airport was the latest in a series of safety incidents at construction sites in the country, raising concerns about India’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure programme.

Part of the canopy and pillars of the departures terminal at the international airport. Indira Gandhi, one of the busiest in the country, collapsed on Friday morning after heavy rain, killing at least one person and injuring several others.

The plane collapse also resulted in the temporary suspension of operations at the airport’s Terminal 1, which handles domestic flights, affecting the travel plans of thousands of people.

It joins a growing list of infrastructure incidents in India in recent years that have raised questions about the rapid pace of implementation of mega development projects in the country under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Narayan Moorthy, a Delhi-based architect, blamed a number of factors for this, including “sloppy work culture,” frequent use of low-quality materials, “reckless rush to complete projects so that some politician can inaugurate them on a predetermined and politically significant date,” and lack of post-construction maintenance.

“All this cocktail together results in utter disasters like the roof collapse of the Delhi airport which killed one unfortunate soul and injured many others… Similarly, the roof of the brand new Jabalpur airport where fortunately there were no casualties in people, but it exposes our systemic rot,” he told Arab News.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to the quality of our supposedly ‘world-class’ construction.”

A day before the Delhi accident, part of the canopy at Jabalpur airport in Rajasthan collapsed in heavy rains, while on Saturday a canopy collapsed in the passenger pick-up area at Rajkot airport in Gujarat.

In the eastern state of Bihar, four bridges also recently collapsed, and the $80 million Delhi underpass, which opened just before India hosted the G20 summit last year, has been submerged in water for several days, disrupting traffic on Delhi’s main thoroughfare.

As part of Modi’s construction spree, some 44.4 trillion rupees ($532 billion) of new infrastructure will be completed over the next two years, according to Bloomberg Economics.

Modi has presided over many ribbon-cutting ceremonies for these projects, as infrastructure upgrades were a key part of his campaign in this year’s national election, when he won a third term as India’s prime minister. Over the past decade, his government has said it has built 80 new airports, modernized railways and expanded highways by thousands of kilometres.

The projects have been criticized by Indian opposition leaders, with Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the Indian National Congress party, being among the latest to accuse Modi’s government of corruption following Friday’s incident.

“Corruption and criminal negligence are responsible for the collapse of the shoddy infrastructure that has collapsed like a deck of cards over the past 10 years of Modi’s rule,” Kharge wrote on X.

Niranjan Sahoo, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, highlighted how under Modi, infrastructure has “turned into a banking gimmick” to an unparalleled degree.

“While the government may have good intentions of building infrastructure at a rapid pace to meet the demands of a developing country, this is happening without proper attention to its maintenance, reliable maintenance and audits,” Sahoo told Arab News.

“Never before has the country witnessed a kind of infrastructure blitzkrieg planned largely before the elections,” he added. “In a sense, infrastructure fits into the populist narrative of bringing India into the community of great powers. “However, recent incidents severely expose India’s ambitions and capabilities.”

Prof. AK Gosain, a civil engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, said one of the main causes of infrastructure failure is “deterioration” of construction, adding that there is “no accountability at the top”, leaving people at lower levels to act as scapegoats. whenever problems arise.

Anuj Srivastava, an architect at the School of Planning and Architecture in the Indian capital and a veteran of the Indian Army Corps of Engineers, also highlighted the lack of maintenance and accountability in India’s infrastructure projects and the indifference to the environment in the face of a rapidly evolving changing climate.

“The cause of the accidents and infrastructure collapse is the lack of concern for the environment and the rush in planning and implementing the project, which proves the saying ‘haste makes waste’,” Srivastava told Arab News.

“The infrastructure disaster is damaging India’s reputation around the world. “The unseemly rush to build ‘world-class infrastructure’ and its subsequent collapse are causing irreparable damage to India’s reputation.”

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