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Peril looms over breached bridge

Pop quiz: How to catch an auto-rickshaw in Ranchi?

Climb the stairway to a railway overbridge, avoid walkway, jump railings, dodge speeding traffic, gesture the vehicle to a halt and, if still on your feet, hop in.

Downright dearth of common sense among a section of callous commuters is threatening to spill blood on the new Namkum railway overbridge, built with the solitary objective of easing peak-hour rush in the congested capital city.

After the bridge and adjoining walkway were inaugurated on Republic Day this year, the railway authorities closed the manned level crossing at Namkum to both vehicles and pedestrians. But, instead of using the walkway, Ranchi’s slothful bunch of men, women and children prefer to hop, leap and vault over railings to sometimes catch running auto-rickshaws or buses, risking their life and limb.

“If I do not get onto an auto here, I will have to walk more than a kilometre towards Lowadih. Moreover, there is no guarantee whether I will find an empty one after walking the distance. When vehicles don’t have a problem stopping on the bridge, why should we?” a half-witted youth, who called himself Sushant Tirkey, said before hopping into a three-wheeler bound for Bargawa last week.

Tirkey was not the only one. Many coming from Arra, Mahilong, Tatisilwai, Jorar and Tetri were seen waiting on the overbridge to catch auto-rickshaws to the Ranchi-Jamshedpur highway. As if taking cue, some pedestrians who just needed to cross the bridge to reach their destinations too jumped railings and dodged traffic instead of using the guarded walkway.

Auto-rickshaws bound for Namkum villages or Tatisilwai start their journey at Kantatoli Chowk. After reaching Lowadih, those headed for Namkum take the overbridge and the rest follow the road beside railway tracks. So, ideally, passengers from Tatisilwai have to walk till Lowadih and take another auto-rickshaw coming from Kantatoli to go to Namkum. But, the task is a bit too much for Ranchi’s indolent commuters.

K.D. Singh, the officer-in-charge of Namkum police station, confirmed that auto-rickshaws and buses stopping on the overbridge to pick up or drop passengers was against the law. “We are aware of the menace and often take rogue drivers to task. But, one cannot man the overbridge all the time. Commuters should become more responsible. We do not want a new bridge to draw blood,” he said.

Dinesh Soni, the president of Jharkhand Pradesh Diesel Auto-Chalak Mahasangh, too admitted that the practice was dangerous. “Commuters should not be allowed to jump railings to catch autos. On our part, we will soon direct our members not to pick up passengers from the Namkum overbridge,” he said.

Only time will tell whether the new bridge will be a boon or bane for Ranchi.

Should policemen be deployed on the railway overbridge?

Tell ttkhand@abpmail.com