Flyover collapse poses question mark on UP bridge firm

The tragic flyover collapse in Varanasi, the high-profile Lok Sabha constituency belonging to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has posed a big question mark on the standard of works carried out by a state-run corporation in the recent past.

At least 18 people were killed on Tuesday after a portion of the flyover being built by the the Uttar Pradesh Bridge Corporation collapsed on a busy road in Varanasi as it crushed a mini bus, cars and two-wheelers. Officials feared that the toll may rise.

The state-run corporation of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, which had once earned kudos bagging projects not only in other states but also in Iraq, Yemen and Nepal, has been at the receiving end recently, a senior official of the state public works department said.

In 2010, the 1,087-metre Chillgahat bridge connecting Fatehpur with Bundelkhand region in the state, built at the cost of Rs 650 crore, developed cracks within 13 days of inauguration, he recalled.

In 2016, a cavity developed on the Lohia bridge in Lucknow, providing an arterial link between posh and VIP areas on either side of the Gomti river.

Another flyover near Polytechnic crossing had developed cracks and was closed for traffic for about a year, he said.

In both these cases, as well as in most of the similar cases, inquiries were set up but no concrete action was taken and the matter was put on the backburner.

The corporation has been facing problems especially because of overstaffing and unprofessional handling of affairs as well as unprecedented political and bureaucratic interference, he said.

All the appointments on the top positions, especially on the all-important post of the managing director, are made politically and if things are wrong in the corporation it is also the responsibility of the political leadership, he said.

He pointed out that the present MD Rajan Mittal had held the same position during the previous government led by Akhilesh Yadav, but was removed following complaints.

Mittal was, however, again given the responsibility once the BJP government came to power last year, he said.

Not only this, after the minister concerned Keshav Prasad Maurya removed the MD of another construction agency UP Rajkiya Nirman Nigam recently, that charge was also given to Mittal.

The general secretary of the UP Engineers Association, SS Niranjan, when contacted, said that unlike the other cases in Varanasi an important factor was also of traffic management which cannot be undermined.

“All the flaws in the construction work, be it structural or design related will come out threadbare in the technical inquiry ordered by the government but can the fact that traffic management was totally overlooked by the district administration be ignored,” Niranjan posed.

“The probe should also look into whether regular meetings in this regard were being convened by the district administration and necessary precautions in case of construction in such busy areas were in place,” he said.

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