A few days ago, India’s Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman asked for the help and aid of the Indian Army to build a foot-over bridge at Mumbai’s Elphinstone Road Railway Station. As you’d recall, the bridge at Elphinstone Station was where a tragic stampede had occurred a month ago, one that left 23 dead and 50 injured. Needless to say, the stampede was an incredibly tragic event that casted a dark cloud over the Dussehra celebrations that were scheduled to take place the next day.
Ever since the Defence Minister, along with Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, announced that the army will be utilized to help rebuild the bridge, the opposition and liberal sections of our media haven’t wasted a second to criticize this decision by labelling it as being disrespectful to the army. First of all, I can’t help but laugh at the irony in all of this. The same opposition that has never cared about the interests of our Indian soldiers, that was questioning the validity of the surgical strikes our soldiers had carried out against Pakistan and the same liberal media that was oh-so sympathetic to the plight of Pakistani actors and now wants to debate whether or not we should even stand for our National Anthem, are suddenly talking about what constitutes disrespect towards the Indian Army. I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees the absurdity and hypocrisy in all of this.
If there is one thing that the BJP, or the Central Government for that matter, can NEVER be accused of it’s disrespecting the Indian Army. In fact, the ruling government’s decision to look towards the army to help rebuild the Elphinstone Bridge (as well as two additional bridges) is a decision that actually makes a lot of sense – if one were to look at it objectively. For instance, if the army is called upon to build these foot over bridges, a gamut amount of time will be saved as the lengthy tender processes will be done away with. As such, the quickest way to rebuild the bridge, and thereby make things easier for commuters, is to utilize the help of the Indian Army. Additionally, the army has an incredibly efficient and effective track record of developing infrastructure, as evident from the multiple times they have been called upon to do civilian work in the past (many times during the regime of the UPA Government itself).
Whenever a natural disaster or tragedy has occurred, the army has always been called upon to help with the rescue and rehabilitation of victims. So this so-called notion that the army cannot be called upon for any work that doesn’t constitute border security is inaccurate. It also seems like the Congress has forgotten that, back in 2010 when the Commonwealth Games were about to begin in Delhi and a foot over bridge had collapsed near the games village a week before the inauguration ceremony, the then UPA Government had to call the army to help rebuild the structure in just four days in order to make sure that it would be functional for the Commonwealth Games and that India wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of the world. Additionally, in February of this year, the army was called upon to help the Public Works Department in Thiruvananthapuram (a state ruled by the opposition) with the construction of a bailey bridge. Also, in August this year, the army was yet again called upon to help rebuild a railway bridge that was damaged in Bihar (another state that, at that time, was being ruled by the opposition).
The opposition and liberal media’s selective outrage and muddled memory is nothing new. It’s yet another attempt by them to score political points against the ruling government. Given the opposition’s frustration at not being able to defeat the BJP in elections, it’s not surprising to see them resort to such tactics. Having said that, for anyone to politicize the tragedy that occurred on Elphinstone Bridge, be it the opposition or sections of liberal media, is disgraceful, deplorable and demeaning to the victims and their families. The opposition should understand that some incidents are sacred, and they should never be used as planks to score political points, as desperate as the opposition’s situation may be.
उद्यमेनैव सिध्यन्ति कार्याणि न मनोरथै
न हि सुप्तस्य सिंहस्य प्रविशन्ति मुखे मृगा
Only with industry and effort is work done,
Animals never themselves dare enter a lion’s mouth.