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Bridges totter, blame games flow

Birbhum authorities pass buck on repairs

One of the rickety bridges on the Dwarka river in Birbhum. Picture by Dwijodas Ghosh

Rampurhat: Two weak bridges on a key road connecting Birbhum with Murshidabad have been lying unattended for three years with various wings of the administration passing the repair buck to each other.

The "absolute necessity" of repairing the bridges on two branches of the river Dwarka has been held hostage to a tug-of-war between the Birbhum Zilla Parishad, which built the structures, and the Public Works Department (PWD), which manages the roads.

The matter came to light in the aftermath of the Majerhat bridge collapse in Calcutta when the government ordered a stock-taking of all bridges in the state.

"The tussle (in Birbhum) over which agency will carry out the repairs is still on," said a senior official. The bridges are 150 metres apart and located in Birbhum's Rampurhat on the Bishnupur-Sherpur Road.

The Birbhum Zilla Parishad built the bridges in 1992 to connect Behrampore with Rampurhat through an alternative route other than National Highway 60. The road is the lifeline for at least 100 villages in Birbhum and Murshidabad. According to a transport official, around 500 vehicles use the route every day.

Sources in the PWD said the "delicate" condition of the two bridges (both around 60 metres long) had been known to the authorities for over two years.

"The latest inspections after the (Majerjat) incident in Calcutta revealed that the expansion plates between the deck slabs are damaged. The bearings and girders could not be examined but we are aware of high vibrations whenever heavy vehicles pass. The guard-railings are broken and there are many potholes," said a PWD engineer.

Despite that, the PWD is not keen to initiate repairs as the bridges belong to the Birbhum Zilla Parishad, which funded their construction 26 years ago.The PWD did not have the budget to build them then. Sources said the repairs of the bridges would cost Rs 4 crore.

Diptendu Bera, the additional district magistrate (Zilla Parishad) said: "The connecting roads belong to the PWD and they should repair it. The Zilla Parishad did fund the construction but the responsibility of repairing should be with the PWD."

PWD officials disagreed. "After the Majerhat Bridge collapsed, we are too busy dealing with other delicate bridges. We can't increase our liability," an official said.

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