31 March, 2016. I vividly remember that black day. The campaign for Assembly elections was at its peak. I had just reached office in the morning. Within an hour, the TV screens were blackened with those horrific images. A section of the flyover under construction at Posta had collapsed. Nearly a hundred people had been injured. Fate had taken the lives of nearly 25 people. I had prayed to the Almighty on that day: do not make my city go through this ordeal again. Alas, that was not to be. At the turn of two and a half years, another bridge has collapsed. This time, in south Kolkata.
Majerhat can be best described as the lifeline of south Kolkata – it connect South 24 Parganas with Kolkata. Naturally, such an important intersection witnesses the footfall of lakhs of commuters daily. So, the bridge collapse in this area was tragic and unwarranted to say the least. Every death is painful, but thanks to the Almighty, this time one life was lost. Needless to say, politics – at state and national level – has taken centre stage after this tragedy.
The incident happened on 4th September, 2018. Around 4:45 PM. A section of the Majerhat bridge on Diamond Harbour road collapsed, taking with it few bikes, cars and a mini bus. As soon as the news spread, State Disaster Response Team, fire services, quick response team reached the spot. Good Samaritans in the area joined in on the rescue work. Soon, top officials of the government, including the Urban Development Minister, the Mayor of Kolkata, the Commissioner of Police, State Security Advisor reached the spot to monitor the rescue work. Thanks to the prompt action of the administration, many lives were saved.
The Chief Minister was in Darjeeling at the time. While she wanted to return to the State Capital immediately, lack of communication options in the Hills post sunset, and untoward weather prevented her from returning to the plains. While reporters harangued her for a comment on the responsibility for the incident, she maintained rescue and relief work was the priority.
However, social media and mainstream media were quick to shift to the blame game. Angry netizens were blaming the government; some were expressing their fear of other bridges collapsing in near future. There were some trolls of political parties who were talking of appeasement politics and engaged in rumour mongering.
In the midst of all this, the president of the country, the prime minister and other honchos of the ruling party at Centre started tweeting about the incident. A recently-inducted former minister called a press conference within minutes of the incident and blamed misgoverance of the State Government for this incident. It almost appeared that Majerhat was the only second bridge in the history of humanity to have collapsed. It is amusing that the same vocal BJP functionaries seemed to have lost their goat in July when an under-construction flyover in the Prime Minister’s constituency collapsed, killing 19 people.
There is no doubt that the Majerhat flyover was not maintained well. The CM herself had ordered a renovation in July. Questions arise on the role of Public Works Department. However, there are questions being raised which need answers. Did the construction work of Joka-BBD Bag metro near this bridge, and the use of vibrators, lead to the ground becoming soft? With the heavy downpour in the past one month, did the bridge collapse under pressure? Does railways not share the blame (after all this is a railway overbridge).
Questions will be answered in due course of time. Need of the hour is the safety audit of all the bridges in Kolkata and rest of the State. I have full faith in the Chief Minister that she will rise to the occasion.
P.S. I am taking my Alexa rank to the next level with Blogchatter. This is my second post.
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