A portion of the diversion in Bermo on Sunday after it was washed away the previous night. Picture by Pankaj Singh
Bokaro, July 29: It is back to square one for Jarangdih, a cluster of coal colonies and villages in Bermo subdivision some 55km from Bokaro steel city.
Eight months after its 85-year-old arterial bridge over river Konar was damaged, a temporary diversion connecting Jarangdih to the rest of the district and outside was washed away in heavy rain last night, inconveniencing 10,000 residents and affecting transportation of coal.
While trucks are being forced to take a 10km detour, instead of the shortest 2.5km route via the diversion, to reach the CCL colliery in Kathara, daily wage earners are risking their lives by crossing a railway bridge on foot to reach their respective workplaces.
According to local residents, it poured from 3pm till late in the night yesterday and a 25-metre-long chunk of the 110-metre diversion was swept away around 10pm.
On November 7 last year, the original Jarangdih bridge — the lifeline of the industrial zone of Bermo — sagged while a truck with 20 tonnes of coal was plying on it. At least five of the several steel angles supporting the structure had come loose, prompting district authorities to shut the bridge for repair.
Since the bridge was the shortest link between Bermo and Gomia, Bokaro Thermal and Kathara in Bokaro district as well as neighbouring Hazaribagh and Ramgarh, a stopgap arrangement became mandatory.
Following directives from Bokaro deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar, CCL and DVC — the major beneficiaries of the bridge — built the diversion in flat 15 days at a cost of around Rs 8 lakh to allow over 700 trucks and dumpers to ferry raw material and coal.
Residents of Jarangdih, many of them colliery workers, were benefited too. But, their convenience wasn’t meant to last.
Ajsu district president Santosh Mahto claimed that the PSUs did little to maintain the bridge or the diversion. “Overloaded CCL trucks weakened the diversion as it had done in case of the bridge. The district administration must mount pressure on the coal major for immediate repair,” Mahto said.
He pointed out that people were being forced to embrace peril and hence, there should be no room for complacency. “Two-wheelers (bikes and bicycles) are crossing the parallel railway bridge because the detour is 10km long. Many workers are also crossing the bridge on foot. Who will take responsibility if a train mows someone down?” he added.
Manoj Mahto, a resident of Kurpunia village who works as a loader at Kathara colliery, confirmed that many of his colleagues and fellow villagers were risking their lives. “For me, safety is coming at a price. I am losing my daily wage of Rs 100. Taking the 10km detour is not just exhausting, but also unsafe. Criminal gangs rule those roads,” the 36-year-old said.
Bokaro deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar had some hope to offer. He said reconstruction of the original bridge had started more than five months ago and would be completed soon. “I will ask CCL officials to expedite revamp of the bridge so that people can use it at the earliest. Repair of the damaged diversion will also be undertaken as soon as possible,” he added.
Kathara general manager of CCL K.K. Mishra could not be contacted for his comments despite repeated attempts.