By Haresh Jhala
Gandhinagar, Nov 6 (SocialNews.XYZ) In the aftermath of the recent Morbi bridge tragedy in Gujarat, district administrations and municipalities across the state have swung into action by inspecting bridges and putting safety measures in place.
But, the moot question is, is it a knee jerk reaction to the tragedy or has the administration really woken up from its deep slumber with a pledge to regularly inspect bridges, take precautionary or timely action for repairing.
On Tuesday, Devbhumi Dwarka District Collector M.A. Pandya instructed closure of Sudama bridge -- the suspension bridge on the Gomti river. Speaking to IANS, Pandya said, "As a precautionary measure, the bridge is closed for visitors at regular intervals for inspections. As the bridge is situated near the sea coast, corrosion of bridge bolts occurs frequently, which requires timely replacements."
"This time around, the bridge is closed for two reasons -- maintenance and precaution -- . At any given time, the cable bridge can accommodate only 100 visitors, but during festive seasons, regulating visitors becomes tough so the bridge is closed," said the officer.
Visitors on the recently-inaugurated Atal Bridge on the Sabarmati river too are now regulated by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. Though the bridge load bearing capacity is 12,000 persons at a time, the corporation has decided to limit it by issuing tickets to just 3,000 persons in an hour. The decision came just a day after the Morbi bridge collapsed.
On Tuesday, Bhavnagar district collector D.K. Parekh, along with the Roads and Building Department engineers, inspected a cable-stayed bridge on the old port connecting Bhavnagar -Ahmedabad highways. The Collector told the media that the bridge was constructed in 2012 and made operational in 2013. He has instructed officers concerned to regularly inspect and maintain the bridge. Hundreds of vehicles are passing on a daily basis.
Even Mandvi Nagarpalika has closed down a 125-year-old bridge on the Rukmavati river with immediate effect from Tuesday for pedestrians. The bridge built using stones by the then rulers, has developed some cracks. But in April, Mandvi MLA Virendrasinh Jadeja requested the district administration to keep the bridge open for pedestrians, so even after collector's notification to close it down for all, the notification was not strictly implemented till Tuesday.
Jadeja told IANS, "The bridge is still stable and sustainable enough that even heavy vehicles can commute on it, only because of instruction from the top, it has been closed temporarily."
Calling it nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction, Pratap Dudhat, Congress MLA from SavarKundla constituency of Amreli district said such prompt reactions were visible after the Takshshila fire accident in Surat in which 12 students lost their lives. The very next day, the coaching classes in all the major cities across the state were forced to shut citing violation of fire safety norms. Post hooch tragedy in Gujarat, police raided liquor dens, now liquor has again started to flow, he alleged.
Dudhat argues that if the state government was serious about people's safety, vacancies in Roads and Buildings departments, or irrigations, or in municipal corporations or nagar palikas would have been filled with regular staffers and engineers, but that is not happening which reflects the callousness of the government.
When one Site Officer in the Roads and Building department has charge of two to three other talukas, how does one expect him to visit all sites and ensure that the quality is maintained and norms and regulations are followed.