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PWD ministers should be blamed?

The government has failed to take adequate steps for averting the bridge collapse mishap which claimed several lives.

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The bridge collapse incident occurred over Savitri river on the Mumbai-Goa Highway in Konkan region has raised questions over the manner in which the Public Works Department functions. Even though the government was aware about heavy rainfall occurring in Konkan region it failed to take steps for averting the mishap which claimed several lives. There were reports in media mentioning about the dilapidated condition of the bridge which links Mahad to Poladpur. Despite this the administration has failed to take any initiative to repair the bridge. The structure of the bridge had weakened due to the growth of vegetation.

Since the roots of the plants had penetrated inside the stones of the bridge it was weakening day by day. Even though crash barriers have been installed in some areas of the bridge but it is not enough to withstand heavy rainfalls. Heavy vehicles used to ply on this bridge due to the presence of industries in Raigad and Ratnagiri districts. This is not the lone bridge whose structure has weakened but there are 36 other bridges on the Maharashtra-Goa highway which were constructed during the British reign and are in need of dire repairs. Is the government waiting for another accident to happen? Twenty-two people — 18 passengers, two drivers and two conductors, are feared killed as the two State transport buses in which they were travelling were washed away.

Goa PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar faulted government engineers for negligence which could have led to the collapse of the bridge. Dhavalikar said: “Negligence cannot be of the Maharashtra government. It is a department’s mistake, engineers’ mistake.”

Public Works Department (PWD) should be held responsible for the collapse of the heritage bridge. Incumbent PWD Minister Chandrakant Patil, former PWD ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Nitin Gadkari too are responsible for the mishap.

“Even though the government was aware about heavy rains being happening in Mahad but it has failed to alert the District Collector about imposing restriction of entry of vehicles in the area. The government is least bothered about the welfare of citizens. Right now it is important to hold a debate about the bridge collapse incident in the assembly. We are aware about the missing ST buses but what about private cars which have plied on this route, “said former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.

“The bridge was built during the British era. After discussion with the National Highways Authority, we have shifted traffic to the new parallel bridge nearby. We are trying to confirm reports of other missing vehicles,” Raigad Collector Sheetal Ugale said.

“The rescuers have recovered two dead bodies from the overflowing Savitri river and a massive search is on for others who are missing,” she added.

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis rushed to the spot to take stock of the relief and rehabilitation work. He said, “The relief work is happening on a war footing basis and search operations are on to locate missing persons and vehicles. A probe is being ordered to ascertain the cause of the bridge collapse. The structural audit of other bridges will be completed within 15 days.”

Meanwhile, the Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly sought a judicial probe into the Mahad bridge collapse tragedy. Raising the issue in the Assembly, former CM Prithviraj Chavan said, “A judicial probe should be conducted and action must be taken against those guilty of allowing the old bridge to remain open for traffic. A case of IPC 302 should also be filed against PWD minister Chandrakant Patil.”

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