A day after 10 members of a family lost their lives, as the car they were travelling in fell into a drain at Ramdas village near Ajnala, the Amritsar district administration woke up from its slumber and ordered a survey to identify the exact number of make-shift bridges without protection in the district.
Besides, Amritsar deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat has issued orders under Section 144 of the CrPC to initiate action against owners of heavy vehicles that damage protection along narrow bridges to pass.
Bhagat said the Mandi Board and the PWD (B and R) department were directed to conduct a survey to identify make-shift bridges without protection in the district for fortification and to table their report in two days.
Besides this, the officials concerned were told to initiate action against those who damage the cemented protection along the make-shift bridges to pave way to their heavy vehicles, the DC added.
"In order to pave way to heavy vehicles and combined harvesters (which is too big) through these narrow bridges, owners of heavy vehicles demolish the cemented protection along the bridges, which makes these bridges prone to accidents,"the DC added.
However, not only Amritsar, but the entire Majha region has such accident-prone narrow bridges without railings.
In Gurdaspur, a 140-foot-wide and 125-foot-long bridge over Naumani Nullah on the Dinanagar-Taragarh road at Ali Khan village has been paving way to all sorts of vehicular traffic, including heavy trucks, buses, school buses and light vehicles.
However, the left side protection of the bridge has fallen making it accident prone. Furthermore, there are gaps between the ends of the bridge walls and railing on both the sides of the bridge, and potholes have been developed on the bridge road.
Loose stones on the bridge keep tossing when some vehicle passes over it, which is too narrow free flow of traffic - only one vehicle can pass over it in one direction at a time causing long traffic snarls on both sides of the bridge wasting time and energy of the commuters.
Above all, residents of the area fear that the bridge m ay collapse any time under the weight of heavy vehicles, including trucks carrying mining material.
The bridge, which serves as the only link between Dinanagar and Narot Jaimal Singh via Taragarh covering hundreds of villages, has been badly damaged by the round the clock vehicular traffic and lacks proper lighting.
However, when contacted, Pathankot PWD (B and R) executive engineer Rajinder Singh Gotra said the department was replacing it with a new and wide bridge and the work on which would begin in a month.
Earlier, the department had written several times to the government about the poor condition of the bridge and the issue was also raised in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, said the executive engineer, adding that it was a very narrow bridge that could support traffic only on one side at a time. He said that it was built in around 1950.
Risk runs high in Pathankot
Risk runs high as many vehicles passing over make-shift bridges in and around Pathankot. Even though many vehicles nosedived into gorges and rivers, however, the administration did little to make such bridges secure.
Only two bridges - near Sarna and Malikpur - have protections along it, but the height of the railings is too small to serve the purpose.
A bridge like the Chandigargh-Abadi, where 10 persons lost their lives on Monday, exists in Bahadur Lahri near Sujanpur over a Nikasi (rain drain), which raises high during monsoon. Scores of such bridges exists in various parts of the area from where Ravi and its tributaries passes posing danger to passersby.
"We see that the old bridges are re-carpeted by bitumen again and again to fill the potholes, which not only leaves bridges weak from inside, but also raises the level of road, thus with the passage of time protection railing becomes ineffective, said Vimal Kumar, a local resident. He further said: "From Pathankot to Dinanagar many old bridges either have very low protection railings or no railings at all, which always poses risks to the commuters, especially in night when the visibility is lower.
Proper reflectors should be fixed on the bridges to drivers' convenience, which could help reducing accidents, he concluded.
When contacted, the Pathankot DC, Siben C, said that he would ask the officials to identify such dangerous bridges where the repair was needed. We would ensure speedy work on the dangerous points, he added.
The Ajnala incident was lone,
The government should take some concrete step to build protection railing along the make-shift bridges, as there are more than half a dozen narrow bridges without protection railing in and around Batala only.
Even the bridges with railings near Amonangal village on the Batala-Jalandhar state highway were lying broken for over two years despite repeated compliant by the locals.
Besides this, bridges near Rana Sugar Mill at Buttar Kalan village, Randhawa place on the Mehta-Beas Road and near Gagarbhana - are damaged even though more than 1,000 buses pass through this road every day.