Acting on a letter seeking fixing of responsibility of officials for alleged negligence that resulted in deaths of seven schoolchildren in a school bus accident in Amritsar last month, Punjab and Haryana high court on Monday sought Punjab government’s response by November 8. On September 20, the bus had fallen into a canal off a bridge that didn’t have railings.
In the letter written by Ram Kumar of SAS Nagar, he urged the high court to take suo motu notice of the matter and fix responsibility for negligence in the maintenance of roads and bridges.
In the letter, the court was urged to issue directions to the state to undertake repair and maintenance of all the roads and bridges at ‘war level’ and get the works completed at the earliest to avoid such mishaps.
“All this is result of the negligence on the part of the state government that failed to repair the dilapidated bridges and construct the new ones even as 86 bridges without railing were identified two years ago by the district authorities,” the letter says, referring to the Amritsar accident.
The court was further told that in the absence of crash railings on the bridges built on canal or distributaries in rural as well as border belts, they had turned into virtual death traps, claiming lives every now and then.
The court was also told that a similar incident in January 2014 in Ramdas area had claimed 10 lives. Following this accident, an exercise was carried out in which 86 vulnerable bridges were identified. The court was told that railings were yet to be installed and that situation was no better in other districts as well.
The letter also mentions another accident reported in 2014 in which four people had died on the Kharar-Ambala highway in SAS Nagar when a bus driver tried to steer clear of a pothole and rammed into a car. The roads in SAS Nagar were repaired following a direction from a lok adalat but the situation did not improve in other parts, letter states.
It has been stated that despite government levying 1% cess for infrastructure development on registration of property sale deeds in 2015, the condition of roads still remained “pitiable” especially in rural areas.