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Disaster in Bihar: Government Acts After 10 Bridges Collapse, Engineers Suspended

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In the first crackdown following a spurt of bridges collapsing in around a fortnight, the Bihar government on Friday suspended 15 engineers from the water resources and rural works departments for alleged negligence.

The government has also issued show-cause notices to two construction companies, asking why they should not be blacklisted. Since June 18, ten bridges have collapsed or caved in across the state – in  East Champaran, Siwan and. Four of nine bridges/culverts had fallen in Siwan alone.

Apart from issuing show-cause notices and initiating the process to blacklist errant contractors and construction companies, the government is also withholding payment to some of them.

“A total of nine bridges and culverts have collapsed in different districts of the state, out of which six bridges and culverts were very old and three bridges and culverts were under construction,” the government said.

The water resources department suspended 11 officials, including executive, assistant, and junior engineers.

The rural works department also suspended four of its present and former engineers for dereliction of duty.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar sought an inspection report regarding all under-construction and old bridges in Bihar within two weeks.

The incidents have led to a political storm, with the Nitish government trading charges with the Opposition over who is to be held accountable. While Building Construction Minister Ashok Kumar Choudhary blamed former deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav for not putting in place a robust bridge maintenance policy when he was the state’s road construction and building construction minister, the latter said it was a case of “pot calling the kettle black”.