It’s been nearly three weeks since seven children died after their school van fell into a drain while crossing an unsafe bridge in Muhawa village near Attari, but the administration has failed to take steps to improve the condition of such bridges in border villages.
Numerous narrow bridges with damaged railings still dot arterial roads in these villages, even after deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal instructed the public works department (PWD) to construct cemented parapets on these bridges.
During a hearing on a petition seeking direction to the government to make school transport safer, Punjab traffic adviser Navdeep Asija on Friday told the high court that the Punjab mandi board has indentified around 59 unsafe bridges in Amritsar, with as many as 23 in the Attari market committee area.
Many tractor-trailers loaded with people had to cross these unsafe bridges after evacuation orders were announced recently, following the Indian Army’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control.
These bridges are not only important for civilians, but also for the defence forces, as during war or border tension, army vehicles also use these.
‘OLD CONSTRUCTION MAKES REPAIRS TOUGH’
After the tragic accident on September 20, the Hindustan Times had reported that Daoke and Bheropal villages, about 4 km from the Attari border, also have such killer bridges. Amritsar deputy commissioner Varun Roojam had said that he would be sending his team to get the bridges repaired.
On a visit to these villages, however, the HT team found that nothing has changed, as far as the condition of the bridges is concerned. “A team was sent to Muhawa and other villages to check the unsafe bridges. The team, in its report, said that these narrow bridges lack sufficient space and support for constructing cemented parapets and railings,” said Roojam, adding that the constructions are very old, making repairs difficult.
At some places where railings can be built, said the DC, the team was told that these would act as obstructions for farmers to take their combine harvesters through.
“I will be having a meeting with the defence personnel too, as the drains on which the bridges are constructed come under their jurisdiction. To carry out any repairs, the civil administration needs a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the defence forces,” said Roojam.