Hira Lal, who has stood outside Bluebells School International every day for the last 20 years, will have to move his drinking water cart away from the spot.
Before him, his father had stood there — right at that spot — with the cart for business.
The place is no longer safe. “I will have to move my cart. I have no option. It is not safe anymore,” said Lal. “I have a family to think about.”
Lal’s worries began the day a 50-year-old pottery and plants shop in the area was destroyed in a mishap at the Metro construction site in Zamrudpur.
The accident site is sandwiched between Lady Shri Ram College for Women, one of the country’s most renowned educational institutions with 15 acres of land, and the Bluebells School International spread on three acres with classes from kindergarten till Class XII.
Life for people around Pier 67 — which gave way under the weight of the girder and concrete span causing the accident on Sunday — has changed since then.
Mahindar, a rickshaw-puller, has moved from the spot, which gave him good business. In between negotiating the price with a customer, he said: “I cannot stand outside the college anymore. I will have to move my rickshaw to the end of the street.” He gets the maximum number of passengers from outside the college. “But the police have told us to stay clear of the Metro construction area and safety is more important than a few rupees more,” he said.
The women’s college has about 2,000 students and a hostel for 300. It is just 50 feet from the construction site.
Many students were afraid to return, with the giant bridge looming just above them.
“It is not just the students who are scared. I had to spend a lot of time convincing my 73-year-old grandmother in Chandigarh that the college will be safe,” said Asmita Prabhakar, a first-year student of political science. “She wanted me to switch.”
Smitana Saikia (21), the student’s union president, recalls the large number of phone calls received before the orientation ceremony. “The parents were frantic,” she said.
Bluebells School International has worked out a security plan. The two gates facing the construction site have been locked and all students and staff have been instructed to use the rear gate. Rukma Jyoti (17), a Class XI student, is back at school but doesn’t think anyone will forget the accident.
“The cranes crashed during our lunch break on Monday,” she said. “We were all still shaken from the collapse the day before and, when this screeching metal hit the ground, there was total panic.”
Thankfully, she said, there were fewer students at school that day because of the accident the day before. “Many parents are still too shaken to send their kids in.”