Rocky reminder: On the Silkyara tunnel rescue

The Silkyara tunnel rescue is laudable, but the accident was preventable

In a post on X, President Draupadi Murmu called the rescue “one of the greatest” in history. It may well be, but the scale and the fervour with which it was undertaken also casts an unfavourable spotlight on the Char Dham highway project and on the unsafe working environments of those expected to build such infrastructure. In both this incident and one in July, when a crane collapsed on and killed 20 workers working on the Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi Expressway, in Thane, the contractor was Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd. The government must investigate the specific causes of both incidents, take steps to prevent recurrence of similar situations and ensure on-site working conditions include safety features. Then again, if unsafe environments are the issue, ongoing work on the Char Dham highway itself may need to be reconsidered, since experts have repeatedly raised concerns about the carrying capacity of the local terrain and slope-cutting activities defying geological wisdom. The rescue was certainly laudable, but if adequate attention is paid to workers’ — and the highway’s future users’ — safety, such operations may not be needed altogether.