The Telegraph
Saturday , February 13 , 2010
Since 1st March, 1999
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Old bridge threatens Delhi bond
- Centre’s neglect irks Bihar

Patna, Feb. 12: The condition of the Mahatma Gandhi Setu has not only endangered the link between north and south Bihar, but has also soured relations between the Centre and state.

The 5.575km Mahatma Gandhi Setu, commonly known as Ganga bridge, has been a lifeline for people living on the north of Patna since its inauguration in 1983.

But at present, the bridge is in danger of collapsing, as it witnesses a huge traffic flow using only one lane. The bridge administration has shut the movement on the other lane, which it feels is “unfit to bear vehicle pressure”.

The bridge, which is extensively used to transport essential commodities through the NH-19, ironically threatens to breach the relationship between the state and Centre. The Manmohan Singh government has allegedly been sitting on a Rs 53.18-crore state proposal to repair the cracks it has developed at many places.

Secondly, the Centre has also not been clearing the Nitish Kumar government’s proposal to get the bridge repaired through a private-public-partnership (PPP) venture. The state’s road construction department in February last year sent a proposal worth Rs 267 crore, seeking issuance of a no-objection certificate for letting it get the bridge repaired under a PPP venture through ILFS, a central construction agency. “But the Centre is blissfully sitting tight on our proposals. We are unable to understand why the Centre is oblivious to the bridge, which is on the verge of collapse,” said state road construction minister Prem Kumar.

Experts said that the cantilever arms and central hedge bearing, which hold the road surface, are damaged. “So, the floor atop the bridge has been collapsing even though the pillars are strong enough to hold on,” said an engineer of the department.

In fact Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar has sent a letter to Kamal Nath, the Union minister for road construction, to clear any of the two proposals. Prem also met Nath, requesting him to approve the proposals as soon as possible to save the “lifeline” of the state. “But the Union government has been maintaining cruel silence over the issue, which needs immediate attention,” Prem said.

Work on the Patna-Hajipur Mahatma Gandhi Setu began in 1972 and got operational in 1983. “Will the state once again return to the steamer-and-ferry age?” feared Rajiv Sinha, a Patna-based owner of a transport agency.

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