The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has demanded a high level probe into the Bijanbari bridge mishap which has left 32 dead and 130 injured. A CPI(M) team led by Darjeeling Rajya Sabha MP Saman Pathak visited Bijanbari on Monday.
Bijanbari, 38 kms from Darjeeling, experienced the worst tragedy with the Bijanbari Little Rangeet Suspension Bridge collapsing on October 22 at 5.50pm, when more than 150 people were trying to cross over after attending a Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) programme.
"Both the Morcha and the administration are responsible for this tragedy. How could the administration allow such a programme to take place at such a spot when they were well aware of the fact that huge crowds would be crossing over this frail suspension footbridge? Why didn't the police stop hundreds of people from standing on the bridge which the whole of Bijanbari knew would not allow more than 10 people from crossing over at once? The programme could have been held in more practical venue rather than in the middle of the wilderness where people would have to cross the river" alleged Pathak.
He further questioned the locus standi of GJM president Bimal Gurung laying the foundation for the new campus for the Bijanbari Degree College.
"We want to know the validity of the foundation stone laying programme as the president of a political party (read Bimal Gurung), who is not an elected leader nor a part of the government, was laying the foundation stone. The foundation stone laying ceremony is the cause of the tragedy. We will be immediately taking up the matter with the state government. The state government should set up a high level commission to probe into this matter," demanded Pathak.
Training guns at chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Pather dubbed her Darjeeling Hill visit as a mere political drama. "If she was sincere then she should have visited Bijanbari and met the family members of the deceased and the injured. If the visit was just for making announcements then she could have easily done it from Kolkata. We demand that the government ensure relief for the affected families in remote areas also," demanded the CPI(M) MP.
CM Mamata Banerjee was in the district on Sunday. On arrival she had visited the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital in the plains; Darjeeling District Hospital; met the Governor and GJM leaders and held a meeting with the district administration. On Monday she departed for Kolkata.
Pathak further demanded that the government should get a survey team to study the feasibility and validity of all such suspension bridges in the Hills so that similar mishaps do not occur in future.
Interestingly, as part of the blame game, Gurung had alleged that despite repeated requests to the former Left Front state government to upgrade these bridges, the state government had turned a deaf ear.
CM Mamata Banerjee during her visit had talked of the recent earthquake having weakened the suspension bridge. "Along with this, the crowds attending the GJM progarmme had exerted so much load that the bridge gave way. However we will have a Central survey team to look into all such structures" Mamata had assured.
Saumitra Mohan, district magistrate, Darjeeling stated that he has already instructed the concerned authorities to conduct a thorough technical survey on all such bridges in the district and inform him immediately in case of finding any unsafe.