“It was done to favour some businessmen. You know how things work here”
Srinagar: The government is likely to continue paying the price of taking the decision to construct an ‘un-required’ 120-metre long bridge in RajBagh at a whopping cost of Rs 12 Crore. The bridge was originally planned to be a motorable one. However, the interference from the authorities for their ‘vested interests’ not only lead to its conversion from motorable to the pedestrian bridge but also to its re-conversion.
At present, a very few people use the bridge to cross over.
Going against all the hue and cry for constructing the bridge, the authorities had laid its foundation parallel to the Abdullah Bridge. This was deemed to help with the traffic congestion in the Srinagar city. However, the floods in September 2014 had raised concerns leading to the cancellation of the No Objection Certificate issued to the JKPCC to construct the motorable bridge.
However, as per the officials, the bridge could still have been motorable had the government and Managing Director of Jammu and Kashmir Project Construction Corporation Dilip Thusoo not intervened. Without consulting the Road and Building Department, Thusoo had taken the decision to convert the bridge to a pedestrian bridge, making it third of its kind within a kilometre in Rajbagh vicinity.
Pertinently, Thusoo was involved in multiple frauds at the JKPCC over the years, and the same was established by the Crime Branch in February.
“RITES (an engineering consultancy company) and transport department had recommended constructing a motorable bridge in order to ease traffic congestion in the area. But without consulting us, Mr Thusoo took the decision. He was basically a blue-eyed person. He would not listen to anyone. It was just to please the government,” said an Ex-official from Road and Building Department, on condition of anonymity.
“It was done to favour some businessmen. You know how things work here,” he added.
Apart from the general public, the State High Court also objected to the conversion plan on May 12, 2017, during the PDP-BJP regime.
“The flood was and should definitely have been a concern. But, huge chunks of money were utilised for the bridge. They could still have managed to make it motorable,” said a Highly placed official from JKPCC. He also said that the re-conversion will incur more cost but it is possible.
“Let the government decide something first. The Development Commissioner must have given details to the Honourable Governor on which he will take a call,” he said.
As far as the public opinion is concerned, the masses are aware of how their tax money is being played with.
“Construction/ Conversion: It all requires money that we pay to the government as Tax. The bridge was not at all needed in the first place. The slope of the bridge is such that the speed of the vehicles would be slower while on it. The big buses that actually cause traffic jams would block the bridge. The river is not safe because of constructions like this. How many bridges can a river handle! Its all about money and corruption,” said a commuter.
On April 10, 2017, the High Court had ordered a status-quo on the construction of the bridge. For some time, after the court’s intervention, the construction was stopped. The authorities were directed to go ahead with the construction of the bridge as per the original plan.
Moreover, in its report, the Registry of the High Court had submitted a report to the Chief Justice that read, “The matter certainly sheds a great light on how the Government is adamant and bent upon destroying the ecology of the City of Srinagar in general and river Jhelum in particular.”
Sharing the status of the issue, Dr Sami Arif Yeshvi who has recently taken charge as the Chief Engineer R&B told Free Press Kashmir that the engineers are examining the bridge and also taking into consideration the flood levels.
“Taking cognizance of the media reports, we are examining the bridge and considering the flood levels as well. We will arrive at a conclusion and accordingly take the decision immediately,” he said.