As villagers bid a teary adieu to seven children who lost their lives after their school van fell into a drain in Muhawa village, 35 km from Amritsar, on Tuesday, the HT team reached the border region on Wednesday to take stock of killer bridges in the area.
The bridge from which the vehicle fell into the drain did not even have railings. Although it has come to light the driver was driving rashly, the incident could have been averted if the bridge was in a better condition.
Not only the bridge in question, but many other bridges that lie on arterial roads of these border villages were found to be in a dilapidated condition.
Muhawa village alone has two such bridges on both its entrances. These have not been repaired for decades, say villagers. The depth of water flowing under these bridges is around 7 feet on normal days, and it rises further during rains, enough for even a grown-up to drown.
“The administration is in a deep slumber. When such mishaps occur, it wakes up immediately and the officers order development works. After that, no one bothers to maintain and repair the infrastructure. Innocent lives have been lost due to the administration’s negligence,” said Kuldeep Singh, a villager.
Not only Muhawa, even Daoke and Bheropal villages, which are just 4 km from the Attari border, have such killer bridges. Daoke villagers said almost 12 school vans cross these unsafe bridges every day, but no one has bothered to carry out repairs.
Some elderly villagers allege the bridges have been in the same condition for the past six decades. Despite their repeated complaints, no action has been taken, they say, adding many vehicles have fallen into the drain at night hours as the bridges have no railings.
‘POLITICAL LEADERS DON’T CARE ABOUT US’
Mahuwa village is a part of the assembly segment represented by Punjab cabinet minister Gulzar Singh Ranike. Sukha Singh, a 60-year-old villager, said the Akali leader, who lives just 10 km from the village, visits them only during the elections and has failed to provide safe bridges and good infrastructure.
Claiming the rural border belt has been ignored for long, Satnam Kaur, also from Muhawa, said: “Politicians come and ask for votes. But despite knowing our problems, they fail to help us after coming to power. After this mishap, they will come again to announce relief for the kin of the deceased, but then they’ll vanish. Their money cannot bring back our kids.”