KOLKATA: Three days after a bridge collapsed in Majerhat in south Kolkata, killing three people and injuring 25, another bridge collapsed on Friday morning in Phansidewa, near Siliguri in Darjeeling district of West Bengal. The mishap occurred when a brick-laden truck was crossing the bridge. The driver was injured and admitted to a hospital.
Several villages in Mangach area of Phansidewa were cut off due to the collapse of the bridge over river Pichla. However, as was the case with the Kolkata bridge collapse, soon after the Phansidewa bridge collapsed, a blame game began between the state government and the CPM-controlled Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad (Siliguri sub-divisional administration), under whose purview the bridge fell.
As with the Majerhat tragedy, no one seems willing to take responsibility for the Phansidewa bridge collapse. "The bridge comes under the purview of Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad, which is controlled by CPM, and the bridge was made during the CPM's rule. The construction and maintenance of the bridge was the responsibility of the Mahakuma Parishad," said tourism minister Gautam Deb.
Jivesh Sarkar of the CPM said: "Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad had notified the bridge as dangerous and ordered heavy vehicles not to ply on it. We had sent a proposal to the state government for repair of the bridge. But, in a typical case of vendetta, the Trinamool Congress-led state government did not release funds for repairing the bridge and heavy vehicles plied on it defying the orders. The entire blame can't be put on us. State government has to share the responsibility."
Siliguri Mahakuma Parishad was formed in 1989 for the development of Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district. It looks after development and maintenance works over an area of 837.45 square kilometres.
As with the Majerhat bridge collapse, for which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee blamed Metro railway works and heavy vehicles, north Bengal development minister Rabindranath Ghosh said northeast-bound heavy trucks were to blame.
"Heavy vehicles to northeast India used to go through this bridge, which weakened it and ultimately caused its collapse. There are thousands of bridges over 72 rivers in north Bengal. Health check-ups were earlier not conducted for these old bridges. But now, PWD engineers check the health of the bridges every six months. But it was not possible to repair bridges during monsoon," he said.
The state government could not find the original papers of the Phansidewa bridge. "We did not find the papers of the bridge and it took some time to make the papers afresh," Ghosh added.
Caption: The truck over collapsed bridge in Phansidewa in Siliguri subdivision of Darjeeling district of West Bengal on Friday.