West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee admitted on Friday the state public works department (PWD) was responsible for the Majerhat Bridge collapse on Diamond Harbour (DH) Road on 4 September in which three persons had been killed and 25 others were injured.
The disclosure was made in the preliminary probe report submitted to the government. In the same breath she continued to insist the Metro Railway’s ongoing construction work might also have contributed to the collapse.
The day after the incident, Miss Banerjee had contested the claim by the Metro Railway authorities that the collapse had nothing to do with its construction near the portion of the bridge that caved in.
The state government has decided to build a new bridge at the same site within one year after dismantling the collapsed structure.
Miss Banerjee asserted PWD officials won’t be spared if they are found negligent in duty. However, she gave a clean chit to the PWD minister Arup Biswas, one of her lieutenants.
Earlier in the day, the state chief secretary (CS) Malay De submitted to the chief minister the preliminary report of the inquiry into the mishap.
Speaking to the media at the state secretariat Nabanna this afternoon Miss Banerjee said: “The chief secretary has submitted a preliminary inquiry report after holding 30 to 40 meetings during the past three to four days. He has pointed out three important issues in his inquiry report. The PWD can’t deny its responsibility for the collapse of the bridge which was over 50 years old . Concerned officials of the PWD were dilly dallying with files since 2016 causing unnecessary delay in the maintenance of the bridge. They could not take precautions and we have seized files relating to the bridge.”
“Necessary steps would be taken against the concerned officials and the chief secretary has correctly pointed this out,” she added.
Trying to defend the PWD minister, who had come under severe Opposition criticism for “gross negligence of duty”, the chief minister said : “Arup (PWD minister) did not know anything about it and the officials did not even send him files in connection with the Majerhat Bridge.”
“According to the inquiry report, vibrations caused by the Metro Railway’s ongoing Joka project might also have been responsible for the accident, but it requires more investigations. We have decided to construct a new bridge at the same site pulling down the old one. It will take one year to complete the project. The construction will begin within a month. Our chief secretary will himself look after this and he will decide on which construction agency will be given the work,” the chief minister added.
“I know people in the southern part of the city are facing trouble owing to the inconvenience in traffic movement after the bridge collapsed. We are working out how to build alternative roads in the area to reduce the plight of the commuters. I have already spoken to Delhi and the general manager of the Eastern Railway here in Kolkata for setting up of a level crossing that will be run manually at Majerhat station. We will bear the cost and if necessary man it,” she added