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NEW DELHI: The recent deadly roof collapse at New Delhi’s main airport was the latest in a series of construction safety incidents in the country that have raised concerns about India’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure startup.

A section of canopy and pillars at the departure terminal of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, one of the country’s busiest, collapsed on Friday morning after heavy rain, killing at least one person and injuring several others.

The collapse also caused a temporary shutdown of the airport’s Terminal 1, which is used for 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 mega-development projects in the country under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Narayan Moorthi, a Delhi-based architect, blamed this on many factors, including “wrong work culture”, frequent use of poor quality materials, “reckless rush towards the end of projects so that some politician can inaugurate it on a predetermined and politically significant date”, and lack of maintenance after construction.

“This whole cocktail comes together to result in unmitigated disasters, like the roof collapse of the Delhi airport which killed one unfortunate soul and injured many others… Similar is the case with the roof of the brand new Jabalpur airport which thankfully had no casualties but exposes our systemic rot “, he told Arab News.

“We have a lot to be ashamed of in the quality of our supposedly ‘world-class’ constructions.”

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

In the eastern state of Bihar, four bridges also collapsed recently, and an $80 million underpass in Delhi, inaugurated just ahead of India’s hosting of the G20 summit last year, has been under water for days, snarling traffic on Delhi’s main thoroughfare.

Under Modi’s construction, about 44.4 trillion rupees ($532 billion) in new infrastructure will become operational over the next two years, according to Bloomberg Economics.

Modi presided over many of the ribbon-cutting ceremonies for these projects, as infrastructure modernization was a key part of his campaign during this year’s national elections, 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, upgraded railways and expanded highways by thousands of kilometers.

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

“Corruption and criminal negligence are responsible for the collapse of poor infrastructure that has been falling like a deck of cards in the last 10 years of the Modi government,” Kharge wrote on Ks.

Niranjan Sahoo, a senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, pointed out how infrastructure has been “turned into a vote bank gimmick” under the Modi government on an unprecedented scale.

“While the government may have good intentions to build infrastructure at a rapid pace to meet the demands of a growing nation, (it) is being done without adequate attention to their maintenance, reliable maintenance and auditing,” Sahu told Arab News.

“Never before has the country witnessed a kind of infrastructure blitz that is mostly timed before an election,” he added. “In a sense, infrastructure fits into the populist narratives of bringing India into the community of great powers.” However, recent incidents have exposed India’s ambitions and capabilities badly.

Professor AK Gosain, a civil engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, said one of the main reasons for infrastructure failures could be traced back to the “fall in quality” of construction, adding that “there is no accountability at the top”, leaving people at lower levels as a scapegoat 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 indifference to the environment amid a rapidly changing climate.

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

“The infrastructural disaster is damaging India’s reputation in the world.” In the obscene rush to hastily build ‘world-class infrastructure’ and its subsequent collapse, India’s reputation is being irreparably damaged.”

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