Varanasi bridge collapse: Authorities begin the blame game

Authorities have started blaming each other. The Bridge Corporation stated they had asked for diverting traffic, but the officials said they didn’t receive any  request. They blamed poor construction

Siddhant Mohan

On Tuesday evening, Varanasi — the Loksabha constituency of Narendra Modi — saw one of the biggest accident in which part of an under construction flyover fell down and killing many innocent people at the moment. As per the official claims, about 18 people have lost their lives but according to the spectators and those who live and work earby the crash site, more than 30 innocents have paid the price of administrative and governance failure with their lives.

However, just close to 24 hours past the accident, authorities have begun blaming each other for the mishap. It is a fact that while the flyover, which is being built by Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation, was being constructed for last two-and-half years, traffic was not diverted at any point of time. Commuters and vehicles were bound to pass beneath the under-construction flyover, and apparently authorities did not take this risk into notice.

Rajan Mittal, the managing director at Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation, said on Wednesday that the corporation had requested the district administration for diverting vehicular traffic, but the district administration did not pay any heed to the appeal. “We wrote several letters to local administration requesting traffic diversion but they ignored it,” said Mittal.

Countering it, Suresh Chandra Rawat, the SP Traffic in Varanasi, has said that they had received no letter from the UP Bridge Corporation requesting diversion of traffic from the construction zone. Rawat also blamed the Corporation for neglecting all flyober building standards. “We informed them at least seven times about the standard and the quality of the flyover. If they had paid heed to it, the accident could have been avoided,” said Rawat.

“At first, it looks like a human error of Bridge Corporation. May be it was the bearing that slipped and the girder fell down, but it was mostly because of the pressure we have been receiving from the top,” said one source from Bridge Corporation on the condition of anonymity citing that workers and contractors were under pressure because Narendra Modi was to inaugurate the flyover around Diwali in October.

The Bridge Corporation is also relying on the ‘bearing slip’ as “it spares the administration from corruption charges and the pressure from the top”, said the source.

Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has been frequently visiting Varanasi. During every visit, the saffron CM would meet the officials of the Public Works Department, Municipal Corporation, Bridge Corporation and every other authority, where he would mount pressure to complete the “development works” as quickly as possible. The flyover in the question was on the same table as other works.

Prime Minister and MP Narendra Modi has been inaugurating every bridge and flyover in the city and the outskirts since Bhartiya Janata Party came into the power in the state last year. One official from the PWD told NH, “With Modiji visiting the city all the time for inauguration, there’s an immense pressure. We have to work for longer hours with minimal staff.”

“Not only Yogi Adityanath, state ministers like Nilkanth Tiwari, Anil Maurya who live in Varanasi, have been visiting government projects, including the flyover, time to time, but they really failed to see the problem in the flyover? I don’t think so. They have been just demeaning the life of the innocents,” said Pradeep Agrahari, a 38-year-old tea-seller just few meters from the crash site.

Agrahari said, “If they would have been present that day, they would have been brought to shame after seeing such a horrific scene. But instead, they are trying to save themselves by not acknowledging their mistakes.”

Meanwhile, city’s hospital are flooded with the number of injured. Yogi Adityanath tried to console the dead with the compensation of Rs 5 lakh, and injured with Rs 2 lakh. But, apparently to save the compensation money, government hospitals have been discharging the injured patients before recovery. “I am still not feeling well, and my family thinks that I should be kept in hospital for couple of days more, but the hospital administration believes that I want to stay there for the compensation,” said Pradyumn Lal, an injured who was admitted in the district hospital.

It was a rampage on the Rajghat Bridge in 2017 in which several people lost their lives. Akhilesh Yadav, the then chief minister, ordered a probe and took action against DM and SSP at the time. But Tuesday’s accident in Varanasi leaves any action against the DM and SSP — who are allegedly favourites of the state government — out of the question.

“They are now trying to say that bridge was sanctioned during Akhilesh Yadav’s regime. But why did DM and SSP not take any action to divert the route? What were the state ministers doing? What is their accountability to this accident?” asks Sunil Kumar, a 29-year-old, wood seller who was present at the crash site at the time of accident.

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