West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday declared that 20 bridges in and around Kolkata have crossed their “expiry date” and will be inspected and repaired urgently on the basis of expert opinion.
At a news conference in the city two days after the collapse of the Majerhat Bridge that killed at least three and injured many, she was asked which agency was in charge of the bridge. “I have set up a high power committee to identify,” she said. And when was the last safety audit of Majerhat Bridge conducted? Refer to reply above, she said.
Ms Banerjee named some of the 20 bridges – Satragachi, Belgachia and Sealdah among them – as unsafe.
Three agencies, Public Works, Irrigation and Kolkata Metropolitan Development Agency will set up committees and inspect and repair urgently bridges in their separate watches.
Some other measures the chief minister announced include banning 20-wheeler trucks in and around Kolkata, a stricter vigil against overloading of small trucks and a suspension of Metro rail construction at Majerhat till forensic tests are done.
Ms Banerjee’s ministers have been blamed the Metro Rail construction ever since the Majerhat Bridge fell. Rail Vikas Nigam Limited is building the Joka-BBD Bag Metro line and a station is coming up next to the bridge.
Today, the chief minister too joined the finger-pointing. “Local people have said it feels like a quake when there is piling work at the site,” she said.
But on the day Majerhat Bridge collapsed, Rail Vikas Nigam said, there can’t be a link between Metro construction and the bridge as “foundationwork at that site”, that is piling, had “ended about one year ago.”
The other agency ticked off was Kolkata Port Trust.
“If Port Trust needs to transport heavy machinery, let them use rail wagons or Roros,” she said. Roros are flat sailing vessels usually used to ship cars across rivers.
But no getting away from politics. Mr Dilip Ghosh, BJP state chief, said in a press conference on Thusrday said, “Mamata Banerjee should stop blaming others for the bridge collapse and trying to pass the buck. Instead her government should take responsibility. They did that during the Posta flyover collapse. They are doing it now. Blaming others.”
Asked about the probe report into the Posta flyover still lying in a precarious state more than two years after it fell and killed 26 people, Ms Banerjee said, “We have a report from IIT Kharagpur. They say if you build the flyover, it will be dangerous for adjoining buildings. If you break the flyover, the buildins will fall down. What are we to do?”
Police chief Rajiv Kumar said seven to eight people who were in charge of constructing the flyover are in jail.