New Delhi, June 26: The Centre today came to the rescue of the Nitish Kumar government by offering Rs 60 crore for maintenance of the Mahatma Gandhi Setu, the lifeline bridge connecting Patna to north Bihar.
The amount is almost equal to what was spent for construction of this 5.5-km long bridge that was opened for traffic in 1982.
The offer came during an hour-long meeting between chief minister Nitish Kumar and Union minister of road transport and highways C.P. Joshi here. Joshi assured Nitish that the National Highways Authority of India would take care of maintenance till a bridge parallel to Gandhi Setu is constructed.
“We discussed the Mahatma Gandhi Setu with the (road) minister and we have made a presentation to the road ministry. We propose to set up the second bridge for which we wanted the no-objection from the central government. They have accepted our proposal,” Nitish said.
The state government will construct the parallel bridge while the Centre will take care of the maintenance of the existing one. “Till the time the alternate bridge is constructed, the Centre would bear the expenses for the repair work of the Gandhi Setu. The state government would take over the job after that,” the chief minister added.
The six-lane new bridge, set to be completed in six years, will come up 10km east of the Gandhi Setu at an estimated cost of Rs 2,000 crore.
The issue of repair and maintenance of the Gandhi Setu has been hanging fire for more than a year over sharing of expenses.
During the presentation made today, the Bihar government detailed the deplorable state of Gandhi Setu. The presentation had photographs of the bridge with gaping holes. The administration fears the bridge can collapse any time.
The need of repairing the bridge was first felt in 1991. The fault in the superstructure has forced closure of a good portion of the western lane of the bridge, leading to frequent traffic snarls.
“From 2004 onwards, a sum of Rs 122 crore has already been spent on the maintenance of the bridge. According to the new estimate given by the consultant hired by the Bihar government, another Rs 60 crore will be required,” Joshi told The Telegraph.
The minister had a word of praise for Nitish, saying the atmosphere in Bihar is currently conducive for building infrastructure. “Earlier, even after the work was awarded, it was difficult to implement the project because of the law and order situation. Now the government is interested and work is taking place. Therefore, we are also interested in pushing projects here,” Joshi said.
The Centre has also promised to spend Rs 50 crore on repair of the Dumri bridge and assured Rs 233 crore for completion of the Bhagalpur bypass.