The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rights rap on killer bridge

A day after Naif Ahmed’s bloated body was recovered from the depths of Tolly’s Nullah, into which he had fallen after slipping through the broken railings of Zeerut Bridge, the state human rights commission slapped suo motu orders on the three departments concerned.

A bench, comprising commission chairman Justice Shyamal Kumar Sen and Amit Sen, shot off a letter each to the principal secretary of the public works department (PWD), the commissioner of Calcutta Municipal Corporation and the city police commissioner, seeking an explanation on the neglect of bridges.

The respective bodies have been asked to submit a report with details of the reasons for lack of maintenance of bridges and roads within the next four weeks. Besides, the police commissioner has been asked to probe the incident and submit a separate report.

“A young boy dies after his motorcycle skids and slips through the broken railings of a bridge. If this is not a violation of human rights, what is'” wondered Justice Sen. “It’s a very sad incident and immediate steps are required to prevent a repeat,” he added.

The suo motu order, he stressed, was aimed at forcing the authorities to take note of the condition of bridges.

However, this is not the first such death. On March 2, 2003, a two-year-old girl was killed after she fell into the Adi Ganga when her mother tripped and fell on the poorly-maintained pavement of Kidderpore bridge.

Justice Sen was angry with the appalling condition of roads, too. It was in keeping with this mood that the commission asked the city police chief to direct the deputy commissioner (traffic) to prepare a report on the “hazardous condition of roads”.

Far away from the commission headquarters in Bhabani Bhavan, Naif’s mother Naseem Ara wept inconsolably at her residence in Ekbalpore.

Mera Sona shayad nahin girtashayad bach jata…,” Naseem Ara mumbled, struggling to hold back her tears.

“It’s only now that they have realised the bridge was not adequately guarded. But will it bring back my Sona'” she cried.

Naif’s only brother Sajid sat grief-stricken, his face buried between his knees. Friends and relatives tried to console him.

“My brother had bought the motorcycle barely a month ago. It’s not that he had just learnt to ride it. He had been riding for the past two years. We just can’t get over the fact that had it not been for the missing railings, he would possibly have survived,” Sajid added.

It was late in the evening and outside the small house, people got ready for Naif’s last rites at Solana burial ground.

Neighbours and friends prepared to carry out the body, while others stood back in silence.

At Writers’ Buildings, no one was ready to accept the responsibility of the broken railings. “This is not our responsibility and we are not supposed to look after the bridge,” asserted PWD minister Amar Choudhury. Others would not even react.

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