Ten days after the Majerhat Bridge collapsed in Kolkata and killed three people, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee admitted the Public Works Department (PWD) of the state government had been found negligent and they would not be forgiven for that. She also announced that the old bridge will be demolished and a brand new bridge built within one year.
Speaking to the media at her office, Ms Banerjee, however, did not name anyone in PWD for the lapse, certainly not the PWD minister Aroop Biswas who was with her in Darjeeling when the bridge collapsed but has so far not spoken a word about it.
But lapses were there. "Files on bridge repair moved slowly," she said, adding, "despite knowing there were problems, no precautions were taken to prevent the collapse. PWD cannot deny its responsibility - that is the preliminary finding of the high power committee. The police will take legal steps," she added.
The chief minister appeared to roll back her earlier attack on metro rail work going on adjacent to Majerhat Bridge. "We had stopped that work for seven days because forensic tests needed to be conducted," Ms Banerjee said.
"Some of you reported that I had stopped work on the BBD Bag-Joka metro rail segment. Why should I? I am the one who started it," Ms Banerjee said. "But Metro vibration has been cited as a cause of possible bridge collapse. But PWD negligence is there, they cannot shrug off responsibility," she added.
The report submitted by the high power committee today was, however, a preliminary one. The final report is expected in a month.
"I have spoken to the Mayor and we are trying to see if it is possible to widen existing roads so that the difficulties of people living in Behala and further south is minimised," Ms Banerjee added.