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NEW DELHI: The recent fatal roof collapse at New Delhi’s main airport was the latest in a series of safety incidents in the country, raising concerns over India’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure build-out.

A section of the 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 suspension of operations at 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 Moorthy, a Delhi-based architect, blames this on a number of factors, including “poor work culture”, frequent use of poor quality materials, “reckless rush to finish projects so that some politician can commission it at a predetermined location.” and a politically significant date’ and lack of post-construction maintenance.

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

“We have something to be ashamed of in the quality of our supposedly “world-class” buildings.”

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

Four bridges also recently collapsed in the eastern state of Bihar, and Delhi’s $80 million underpass, which was inaugurated just before India hosted the G20 summit last year, has been waterlogged for days, snarling traffic on Delhi’s main thoroughfare.

As part of Modi’s build-up, about 44.4 trillion rupees ($532 billion) in new infrastructure will come online over the next two years, according to Bloomberg Economics.

Modi presided over many ribbon-cutting ceremonies for these projects, as infrastructure upgrades were a key part of his campaign during this year’s national elections to win a third term as India’s prime minister. Over the past decade, his government says it has built 80 new airports, modernized railways and expanded thousands of kilometers of highways.

The projects have been criticized by Indian opposition leaders, the latest of whom is Mallikarjun Kharge, head of the Indian National Congress party, who has accused the Modi government of corruption after Friday’s incident.

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

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

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

“Never before has the country witnessed the kind of infrastructure explosion that was largely timed before an election,” he added. “Infrastructure, in a sense, fits into the populist narrative of bringing India into the community of great powers. But recent incidents reveal India’s ambitions and capabilities.

Prof. AK Gosain, a civil engineer at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi, said one of the main reasons for infrastructure failure could be traced back to the “decreasing quality” of construction, adding that “there is no accountability at the top”, with people at lower levels being scapegoated. 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, proving the saying that haste makes waste,” Srivastava told Arab News.

“The infrastructure disaster is damaging India’s reputation in the world. India’s reputation is being irreparably damaged in the ill-advised rush to build ‘world-class infrastructure’ in haste and its subsequent collapse.”

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