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EditorialWhere’s the escape tunnel?

Where’s the escape tunnel?


As the country has become worried about the fate of 41 workers trapped in 4.5 km under construction Silkyara tunnel along Uttarakhand's Yamunotri Highway, the Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari's assurance that he was confident that an advanced drilling machine would speed up the rescue at the site. He assured that efforts to reach the trapped workers would likely be successful within two days, bringing some solace to the families of the trapped individuals and many others.

After about ten days of the incident, rescue efforts for the 41 workers trapped under debris in an ambitious under-construction tunnel in Uttarakhand's Uttarkashi have seen no significant progress. Despite the Indian Air Force (IAF) landing two Lockheed Martin C-130J-30 ‘Super Hercules' military transport aircraft at a rudimentary and challenging airstrip in Uttarakhand to deliver heavy engineering equipment, the rescue operation for the workers trapped inside the tunnel remains stalled.

This critical situation is the result of taking things of utmost importance very lightly. It is a common practice that despite specific regulation for the companies engaged in constructing highways to build a parallel road macadamized with bitumen so that during the construction time commuters can move in a hassle-free manner but often this is ignored with low cost alternatives giving a tough time to people and in the case of tunnels also there is a requirement of making parallel escape tunnels which in this particular case seems to be nowhere in the scene and the result is in front of all. Neglecting rules lead to tragedies, it is as simple as that.

Reportedly, a map has emerged that points to an alleged serious lapse on the part of the company involved in the construction of aforesaid tunnel. As a general rule and Standard Operating Procedure, all tunnels over 3 km long are supposed to have an escape route to rescue people in case there is a calamity. The aforesaid map recovered also tells that such an escape route was planned for the 4.5 km Silkyara tunnel, but never executed. Had the rules have been followed, the people would have been rescued without any difficulty but lapses are part and parcel  of the works undertaken by the lethargic companies which take all chances to save money irrespective of the fact that the same could be risky at times as the case in Uttarakhand. No doubt, the government is proactively working on plans to rescue workers unhurt but criminal proceedings against those responsible for the mayhem should also be initiated asking about the escape tunnel which was supposed to be constructed to save lives during such catastrophes. As and is also pursuing many such road projects having tunnels and bridges, it is advisable that the concerned agencies should ensure that no carelessness is allowed to stop such situations where lives could be at risk.

The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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