While driving down from Gumla to Ranchi recently, we crossed the narrow dilapidated Bridge near Nagpheni, keeping our fingers crossed and repeating our prayers all the time, hoping that bridge does not cave in while we cross. From our battle-hardened vehicle, we could see the construction work being carried out of a new Bridge, parallel to the old bridge; but far from being relieved we were appalled at the quality of work being carried on the New Bridge. We later came to know that the New Bridge’s construction has been going on for the last few years and it is likely to take at least few more years, before it is ready for use. Mind you, this bridge is not located in some non-descriptive road; it lies on the busy National Highway (NH-23) that joins Jharkhand to Orissa, then to Chattisgarh and travels up to Mumbai. Meanwhile the construction work on a new bridge meanders on, at a snail-pace. And the condition of the NH road on the both sides of old bridge is horrible, it forces the hapless passengers to silently endure the pain caused by the bumpy ride of about a kilometer long pot-holed road.
In Gumla District, at the last count, at least 6 Bridges have caved in so far. These Bridges connected number of villages with their respective Block Head-quarters. The combined project cost of the following Bridges is more than Rupees 15 crores and same were being constructed by the Rural Development Department (Special Division) of the district.
- Jolo Ghat Bridge on South Koel River, it joins Gumla town and Basia Block,
- Bala Ghat Bridge on South Koel River, it is in Kamadara Block,
- Bridge on Sankh River, on Natawal-Chainpur via Tati Road, near Kereng Village, near Dumri-Chainpur border,
- Under-construction Bridge on North Koel River, at Tumse-Amtipani Village, Bishunpur Block,
- Under-construction Bridge on North Koel River, at Mahua Longa Toli, Bishunpur Block, and
- Under-construction Bridge on Lawa River, near Bhikampur, in Albert Ekka Block.
The point to be noted here is that the two of the above mentioned Bridges were washed away, while remaining four Bridges were damaged, in this monsoon season. Thereby the number of villages located in the remote areas got cut-off from the Block headquarters.
The District Authorities constituted the probe teams to look into the matter and one of the team stated the obvious, viz., the poor quality of material and the construction work, lack of inspection by the Government Engineers as well as the Contractors and interestingly both the parties blamed the reigning Naxals’ terror in the area. Following the media- news-reporting and much hue and cry by the members of the Gumla Zila Parisad; finally the FIR was registered against the 20 Rural Works Department Engineers (Special Division) and 4 Contractors at the behest of Rural Development Minister Sudesh Mahto. But the big question still remain to be answered, whether the Engineers and Contractors would be tried under the rule of law or would they escape unscathed; as it has happened so-often in the not so distant past, in so many corruption cases in Jharkhand.
In Hazaribagh District, a two year old diversion Bridge over Ardara River lying between Barkagaon and Piparwar, connecting Barkagaon block and Keredari block crumbled ignominiously in the wake of heavy rainfall. Incidentally it was the only bridge that connected these two blocks, the agricultural hub of the district; now the daily commuters have to take a rather longer and pot-holed route to cover a short distance. It was constructed at the cost of Rupees 22 lakh. Now, the State Road Construction Department has announced to build a new bridge after the monsoon season get over, and this may again take couple of years more.
The rainy season completely washed away Serak Bridge built over Kusum River that linked Balumath and Chandwa blocks of Latehar district. Only couple of years ago, the bridge was constructed and inaugurated with much fanfare by the Government Authorities. Reportedly, close to Rupees 83 lakh was spent on its construction, now with the disappearance of Serak Bridge, more than 50 villages have been totally cut-off. The local villagers blame the Contractor for the use of poor construction materials; the District Government Officials for turning the blind eyes towards the bridge-construction, Government Engineers for not doing periodic inspections and relaxing quality checks, besides the Naxals too are being blamed for extracting heavy-amount of levy from the Contractor. One of the villager said that the local contractor was involved in the construction of the said bridge; in fact the bridges constructed by him generally do not really last beyond couple of monsoon seasons. Meanwhile the District Authorities have set up an inquiry committee to find out the truth behind bridge collapse. In the midst of such a scenario, the local villagers are left stranded and remain cut-off without a bridge, surrounded by overflowing monsoon water in Kusum River.
Recently, one more bridge near Simeria was washed away, in the Chatra district and as a result nearly 25 villages have been completely cut-off from the other parts of the district. In the capital city Ranchi too, the condition of many Bridge are not up to the mark and they may invite trouble, unless the necessary repair work are undertaken soon by the concerned Government Departments.
But this kind of developmental – work is nothing new for Jharkhand; we were told that almost every district of the state has similar tales to recount or even more horrifying Bridge stories get reported from the different corners of Jharkhand state. Given the all round corruptions in such cases, many Bridges across Jharkhand are in really pathetic state and their pitiable conditions are often exposed during the monsoon season.
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