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3 bridge collapses, none fatal, set off alarm bells in Bihar


<br>In Bihar, the people of Bhagalpur, Saharsa and Patna have witnessed three major bridge collapses, which fortunately, did not turn fatal.

A section of road bridge connecting Sultanganj in Bhagalpur district to Khagaria gave way on April 29. The officials of Bihar government submitted a report with state and union road transport ministry citing “strong wind and fog” as causes that led to it.

Taking cognisance of the incident, Union Road Transport and Highway Minister Nitin Gadkari pointed out that the Bihar government was wrong. The construction company had used low cost material which led to the collapse of the bridge, he added.

On May 9, three labourers were injured in Saharsa district when a section of bridge collapsed during the construction.

The mishap occurred at eastern side of Kosi embankment at Kandumer village under Simri Bakhtiyarpur block in Saharsa district. The injured labourers who were working on the bridge collapsed and they fell down and were trapped inside the debris.

According to an official, the concretisation of the bridge was done on May 8. Though the engineers of the department asked the contractor to change the centering (Support of bridge) of the bridge, the contractor refused and went ahead with the concretisation. The bridge is located on the approach road at the cost of Rs 1.47 crore.

The third incident occurred on May 20, when a 136-year-old road bridge crashed down due to heavy rain in state capital Patna.

Located in Fatuha sub-town, the bridge was 25 km away from Patna. It was built in 1884 during the British period. The local residents claim that the maintenance of the bridge was poor and the district administration was not alert at a time of heavy rainfall.

The incident appeared when a truck laden with construction material was crossing the bridge. It has collapsed due to excessive wait leaving the driver and contractor injured. The bridges and roads construction department had declared it “dangerous” and did not allow heavy vehicles some 25 years ago.

All the three incidents took place during JD(U)-BJP combined government in the state and had Nitin Nabin as the road construction minister.

When contacted, Nabin told IANS: “The bridge in Bhagalpur gave way due to low cost materials used during the construction, while the bridge in Saharsa collapsed due to engineering fault.”

“As a road construction minister of Bihar, I took several measures, including installation of GPS systems of around 6,000 road and rail-cum-road bridges. It has a facility to alert the department about the wear and tear 24 to 36 hours in advance. It was a part of the bridge maintenance policy drafted during my tenure. I have also pointed out a number of times on the floor of Bihar Vidhan Sabha and Bihar Vidhan Parishad for the implementation of bridge maintenance policy,” Nabin said.

Asked whether the new government will implement the bridge maintenance policy in Bihar, Nabin said, “Am hopeful that the new government will implement it. He (Tejashwi Yadav) is a young leader and will sure endorse the draft made for the welfare of common people.”

“Despite our ideological differences, I have a different kind of approach on welfare policies. I firmly believe that welfare policies should not be mixed with politics,” Nabin said.

Despite several attempts, Hanuman Prasad Singh, the engineer-in-chief of the road construction department, refused to receive phone calls made by this reporter. An official of the department said that there are hardly any suspension bridges in Bihar like Morbi in Gujarat.

“There is a glass sky walkway in Rajgir but we never allow more than two persons at any given time. A state-of-the-art technology has been used in the construction of a glass sky walkway and is a part of dream project of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar,” he said, requesting anonymity.

“As far as other bridges are concerned, the Bihar government has the policy to hold construction companies accountable for any wear and tear in the bridges and even roads. The Bihar government has allotted construction as well as maintenance of the bridges and roads to the companies, which the chief minister mentioned time and again on the public platform,” he said.

On the bridge maintenance policy, he said that it was yet to be implemented.

Amar Nath Pathak, the chief engineer of north Bihar, told IANS: “Every single bridge in the state is exmained on a regular basis. There is no such old bridge in Bihar which is considered as dangerous. In case deterioration is reported in any bridge, we stop traffic operation immediately and repair it on the priority basis.”


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