The Majuli Bridge: An ‘Unkept’ Promise And An End Of A Dream
Guwahati: The dream of a bridge over Brahmaputra connecting Majuli with Jorhat has not only kept hundreds of residents of the largest river island of Majuli living with hopes but was also found to be one of the most exploited political promise over the years.
On Wednesday, one young woman college teacher died, two still missing and over 80 others have to face to one of the most horrific experiences of their lives as the ferry they were travelling toppled after being hit by another ferry in Brahmaputra River near Nimatighat in Jorhat district.
“It’s not an accident but a murder. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself had promised of a bridge here years back and nothing has been done so far except a few photo opportunities for BJP ministers with the foundation stone. The deceased’s dream ended and the dream of a bridge remained a distant one,” said a college student in Majuli who participated in a protest demanding a bridge as chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was visiting the accident scene.
The construction work of the bridge, whose foundation stone was laid twice in five years – by Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari in February 2016 and by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February 2021, was yet to start.
On Thursday, a day later of the incident, CM Sarma announced that the construction work of Majuli Bridge will be started from November and will be completed within four years.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) president Bhupen Borah citing the remarks of former state chief minister late Tarun Gogoi said that the foundation stone laying of the bridge by Union minister Gadkari in 2016 over Majuli without preparing the DPRs.
“This exposed that the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre is out to hoodwink people with an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections. I have never seen a central government like the present one going on a foundation stone-laying spree without preparing the DPRs. Similarly just before Assembly elections of 2021 BJP did Bhumi Puja and once again laid the foundation stone of the same bridge between Majuli and Nimatighat. It is extremely tragic that the BJP government remembers about the long standing demand of the bridge only during elections and conveniently forgets about it after elections,” Borah said.
The 6.8 km bridge project of Nimatighat and Kamalabari Ghat (Majuli) was estimated to cost Rs 925.47-crore and was awarded to the U.P. State Bridge Corporation Limited in February this year.
However, a day after the incident, chief minister Sarma banned the plying of private ferries as they don’t have marine engines. “If the owners wish to convert their single-engine boats to marine engines, the State government will provide a grant of R 10 lakh each with 75% subsidy,” he said.
The CM also promised of an uninterrupted service of Ro-Pax ferries throughout the year with dredging between Kamalabari and Nimatighat to be carried out for creating a navigational channel. He also directed the Jorhat district administration to register a criminal case on the accident. A high-level inquiry has also been instituted.
Earlier, following a ferry disaster in April, 2012 in which some 49 were killed, a one man committee set up the state government to probe the in its report recommended the setting up of a river transport regulator besides ensuring river-worth and safe vessel and improvement of the inland water transport for creating navigable waterway.
Congress leader Borah replied, “Lessons were not learnt from the unfortunate boat capsize that happened in North Guwahati in September 2018. The precautions that should have been taken by the BJP government all over Assam on Inland water transport after this incident was simply not visible when the ferry accident happened in Nimatighat.”
So far, three officials of the Inland Water Transport Department had been placed under suspension for alleged negligence.