After a bridge that was being built over the Ganga river in Bihar fell on Sunday, the state’s deputy chief minister, Tejashwi Yadav, told the news agency PTI that it was a planned demolition because experts had found “serious defects” in the way it was built. Videos of the Aguwani-Sultanganj bridge, which was meant to connect Khagaria district with Bhagalpur, collapsing had gone viral on social media, prompting the opposition BJP to issue severe criticisms.
There were no reported casualties in the incident. Yadav and Pranay Amrit, additional chief secretary of the road construction department, stated at a press conference that the decision was made after a portion of the same bridge collapsed during a storm in 2022. The government then tasked IIT-Roorkee researchers with analysing the structure, he added.
— ANI (@ANI) June 4, 2023
#WATCH | Under construction Aguwani-Sultanganj bridge in Bihar’s Bhagalpur collapses. The moment when bridge collapsed was caught on video by locals. This is the second time the bridge has collapsed. Further details awaited.
(Source: Video shot by locals) pic.twitter.com/a44D2RVQQO
— ANI (@ANI) June 4, 2023
Amrit stated that the government did not wish to wait for the final report before demolishing portions of the ‘flawed’ bridge.
On April 30 of last year, a portion of this viaduct collapsed. As the then-leader of the opposition, I raised the issue vigorously. Upon assuming power, we ordered an investigation and sought expert opinion…requested IIT-Roorkee, which is renowned for its construction expertise, to conduct a study. It has not yet issued a definitive report, but experts who examined the structure informed us that there were significant flaws, Yadav said at the press conference.
Upon receipt of the final report, which is imminent, the state government will consider filing an FIR and blacklisting the company that was awarded the contract, he said.
Yadav disclosed that several ‘vulnerable’ portions of the bridge, reportedly constructed at an estimated cost of 1,700 crore, have already been demolished due to structural defects.
Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, demanded that Amrit submit a comprehensive report on the incident and demanded severe punishment for those responsible.
Reiterating that the bridge will enhance connectivity in northern Bihar, Yadav added that the government would complete the project by November 2019 after all construction issues have been resolved.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal responded to the BJP’s accusations by tweeting that most construction occurred during the terms of BJP ministers Mangal Pandey, Nand Kishore Yadav, and Nitin Nabin.
आज बिहार में भागलपुर के सुल्तानगंज और खगड़िया के बीच गंगा नदी पर बन रहा पुल भरभरा कर गिर गया। 2015 में नीतीश कुमार ने इस पुल का उद्घाटन किया था जिसका निर्माण 2020 तक पूरा होना था।
ये पुल दूसरी बार गिरा है। क्या नीतीश कुमार और तेजस्वी यादव इस घटना का संज्ञान लेते हुए तुरंत… pic.twitter.com/A08lE0THbk
— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) June 4, 2023
The opposition’s response
While state BJP president Samrat Choudhary demanded Kumar’s resignation, former Bhagalpur MP Syed Shahnawaz Hussain demanded an investigation into the allegedly “corrupt” incident.
Shehzad Poonwalla, the national spokesperson for the BJP, referred to it as “the bridge of corruption” and criticised the mayor. Priti Gandhi, an additional spokesman for the BJP, stated that Kumar should focus on his home state instead of interfering in matters unrelated to him.
(With assistance from PTI)