Mumbai, Oct 31 (PTI) The Central and Western Railways today said the Army was chosen to build three foot over- bridges in Mumbai due to its expertise and reputation in building roads and bridges in unfavourable situations.

The government has been facing severe criticism over its decision to take the help of the Army to build the over- bridges in Mumbai in the wake of Elphinstone Road station stampede that claimed 23 lives last month.

Addressing a joint press conference here, chief spokespersons of Western Railway (WR) Ravinder Bhakar and Central Railway (CR) Sunil Udasi said the Army was a preferred choice in times of crises in all the countries across the globe.

They said that since the Army has an expertise in building roads and developing infrastructure, the task of constructing the foot over-bridges in Mumbai has been handed over to it.

“Not only the Indian Army, but armies across the globe, whenever a country faces a severe crisis, they come forward to help the people,” Bhakar said.

“We have many cases wherein the Army was roped in to rescue the needy people during crises, such as very recently Savitri river bridge in Raigad district was swept away and the Army joined the rescue missions,” he added.

Similarly, when entire Jammu and Kashmir was hit due to unprecedented floods, the Army jumped into action to restore and repair roads damaged in over 1,000 places.

Even during the period of Commonwealth Games in 2010, the Army stepped in and rebuilt a bridge in record time, when the bridge had suddenly crashed near Nehru Stadium, the official said.

“The Army was chosen due to its operational expertise and repute in building roads and bridges in headwind situations,” Bhakar said.

Udasi said, “We should not confine the role of our armed forces merely to keeping a vigil on the highest battle ground of the world Siachen or fighting cross-border terrorism. Our armed forces have always been at the service of the needy people during crisis situations every point of time.” In addition to this, Military Engineering Services (MES) have expertise to build bridges in the shortest possible time in times of crisis, therefore, the task of building the bridges has been entrusted to the Indian Army, which eventually, will save time, he said.

The announcement of the Army coming in to help in the construction was made as Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, accompanied by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, visited the Elphinstone Road station this morning.

Fadnavis said the Army would also help in building foot over-bridges at two other stations here.

Sitharaman said it was probably the “first time that the Army will come in to build in what could otherwise be called civil work” to avoid recurrence of the unfortunate accident in the city, which gives jobs to millions. But Elphinstone station tragedy was “so big”, she said.

Twenty-three people were killed in a stampede on September 29 on the crowded over-bridge at the Elphinstone Road station.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.