The bridge worth crores fell but the health of the Bihar government did not get affected at all.

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Accident investigation is not going to work. Special attention needs to be paid to stop commission-bribery in such construction works, because when the contractor pays a huge amount as commission, then that construction work also becomes careless towards maintaining the quality.

The incident of collapse of the bridge being built at a cost of about Rs 1700 crores on the river Ganga in Bhagalpur, Bihar, has once again proved that honesty, morality and ethics are in conflict between widespread corruption in the construction works and connivance of the people sitting in the governance system. There is no place for things like responsibility or sensitivity. Today our system, be it political, social, family, religious, industrial, educational, has become topsy-turvy, flawed. The bigots move so fast in it that honesty is left far behind. The good efforts that are being made are becoming fruitless. Who will make up for the money wasted due to the collapse of the bridge? The latest incident of bridge collapse in Bihar is not the first. Earlier there were reports of collapse of seven bridges in the last year. As much as the negligence and corruption of the company that built the bridges is responsible for the collapse of the bridges, the responsibility of the ruler and the administrator is more than that.

Corruption, bribery, dishonesty are rampant in our system even after reaching the nectar of freedom, despite many accidents and loss of life and property, there is no effect on the corrupt thick skin. Fortunately, the laborers were not working on the bridge at the time of the latest accident, otherwise there could have been a huge loss of life. People have still not forgotten the Morbi bridge accident in Gujarat that took place about seven months ago. 135 people died in this accident. Everyone will also remember the incident of the death of 26 people due to the collapse of the Vivekananda bridge in Kolkata seven years ago. It is astonishing that the bridge that collapsed in Bihar on Sunday had collapsed last year as well. Despite this, the government neither took any lesson nor took any strict action against anyone. This shows how strong is the nexus between the government, the administration and the contractors.

The construction of this bridge being built on the Ganga river in Bihar started in 2014 and it was to be completed in 2019 itself. Why it was not completed even after four years, this is also a kind of corruption. It is the misfortune of the country that if someone’s life is lost in an accident, then there is a lot of remorse, otherwise there is no discussion on such accidents. Keeping political allegations and counter-allegations aside, accidents keep happening in more or less every state and during the tenure of every party’s government. Such accidents happen in developed countries too, but the difference is that lessons are not learned from such accidents in India. This trend is unfortunate. Look at the irony that the government takes support of so many lies to save such corrupt peaks. Surprisingly, when the incident of the collapse of the bridge made headlines along with its video, the clarification came from the government that since the design of this bridge was wrong and fraught with danger, it was destined to be demolished. It is certain that if the same bridge collapses twice, then it is a clear indication of wrong design and poor quality of material used in it. But the way the government was conducting a study of the quality and risk of that bridge, couldn’t it during or before its construction ensure that it gets tested to be better on every parameter including design?

Government claims about this bridge which fell for the second time kept coming forward that soon the construction work of this bridge would be completed and it would be opened for the public. How can a bridge that has collapsed twice before being built be safe for the public? If there was movement of vehicles and people on it, then the tragedy of the result can be guessed. Despite trying to prove the truth a lie, the government is trying unsuccessfully to cover up the corruption by saying that it was deliberately demolished. However, it needs to be clarified whether the bridge itself collapsed or it was toppled. In either case, it is certain that the construction of the bridge was grossly flawed and succumbed to corruption. The question is that before the government was handing over the responsibility of bridge construction to a company, was it considered necessary to ensure the quality of the entire construction plan, design, process, material, time-frame and completeness?

Corruption is prevalent everywhere in the country, especially political and administrative corruption has blocked the development of the country. This is the reason why a large part of the budget kept for bridge or other construction works goes to commission-bribery. This directly affects the quality of construction. If the construction is shoddy, then there is a possibility of its collapse. One of the major reasons for the accidents is also the lack of strict action against the officers and contractors found guilty and responsible in the investigation. Efforts to save the culprits of Morbi accident have also been made in front of everyone. After every accident, there are many attempts to cover up. Governments who consider their responsibility complete only by distributing compensation to the families of those who died in the accident, will have to move ahead. Apart from creating a transparent policy regulatory center to monitor the quality of construction works, it is also necessary to implement it.

Accident investigation is not going to work. Special attention needs to be paid to stop commission-bribery in such construction works, because when the contractor pays a huge amount as commission, then that construction work also becomes careless towards maintaining the quality. The culmination of negligence comes in the form of such accidents. If the leadership taking progressive steps does not cooperate freely in reforming the corrupt system, then in our selfish frenzy and corruption, we may pull such a thread, which will tear the whole cloth. In the matter of corruption in the field of politics, all the parties and leaders act like pulling the rope from under each other’s feet, but no one pulls it. Everyone tries to portray themselves as Chanakya in strategy, but no one has Chandragupta. The hue and cry for scams and corruption is a political issue for them, not a moral imperative. Because everyone peeps in their neck, there everyone sees their shirt stained, then who will get rid of corruption? When will such a system be established that no “bribe” can touch, no “recommendation” can influence and no cost can be imposed. Honesty cannot be told by acting, it has to live up to the level of equality of words and deeds. It is necessary, when we are public-facing in the field of politics, then the badge of authenticity should be on our chest. Don’t come keeping it at home. In the field of politics, our kurta should be Kabir’s chadar. Only then the massive collapse of these corrupt bridges will stop.

-Lalit Garg

(The author is a senior journalist and columnist)

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