Engineers shunted after Bihar bridge collapse get back key posts

₹1,710-cr 4-lane extradosed cable stayed bridge, being built between Aguanighat and Sultanganj on Ganga river by SP Singla Construction Ltd, caved in on June 4 due to design fault


Patna: Almost a month after a mega bridge, being built on the river Ganga tween Aguanighat in Khagaria district and Sultanganj in Bhagalpur of Bihar had collapsed like a pack of cards on June 4, the departmental inquiry ordered by the chief minister Nitish Kumar into the disaster could not achieve any breakthrough.

In a swift action, the state road construction department (RCD) had suspended its senior project engineer Jogendra Prasad and removed deputy chief engineer on the project Sunil Kumar next day and show caused notice to managing director, Bihar Rajya Pul Nirman Nigam Limited (BRJNNL) Niraj Saxena.

Saxena was later removed as MD, BRPNNL, and shunted out to the monitoring wing of the RCD, while tourism secretary, Abhay Kumar Singh was replaced him on June 11. Next day, Singh was posted the chairman of bridge building corporation and Sunil Kumar, who was posted as secretary to the MD, BRPNNL, was elevated as the MD.

Also Read: Aguvanighat bridge on river Ganga in Bihar collapses, yet again

Another deputy chief engineer, project, Vijay Kumar, who was removed on the first time partial collapse of the bridge in April 2022, and posted in the health department, was moved to the project as its deputy chief engineer in place of Sunil Kumar.

Interestingly, Saxena, who was dumped in the monitoring wing of the RCD, on June 30 transferred to the cabinet vigilance department and made its engineer-in-chief. The cabinet vigilance department is the highest authority of the state government to conduct inquiries in cases of bungling and scams.

All the officials, except the senior project officer, who were removed after the collapse of the ₹1,710-crore four-lane bridge, being built by Haryana-based construction company, SP Singla Construction Limited, have been posted back to the key positions either in the RCD or other department within a month, even as the departmental inquiry being carried out by additional chief secretary Pratyay Amrit, is yet to make any significant headway.

Also Read: Another bridge on river collapses in Bihar within a month

“This is the way RCD is working under the stewardship of one of the senior most Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Prayay Amrit, who enjoys tremendous clout in the state bureaucracy owing to his proximity with the chief minister Nitish Kumar,” said a retired engineer of the department.

Meanwhile, the Haryana-based firm involved in the project, SP Singla Construction Ltd, against whom the RCD had initiated the process of black-listing, has been allowed to go ahead with construction of the bridge. “The RCD ACS has conducted two rounds of hearing of the pleas from the construction firm. The construction company is learned to have admitted flaws in the bridge design and offered to rebuild the bridge after removing the debris of caved in bridge from the river,” said an engineer, who participated in the hearing process.

The first collapse of a portion of the bridge had taken place on April 30, 2022. The construction of the 3.16-kilometre-long bridge began in 2014 after chief minister Nitish Kumar laid its foundation on February 23. The bridge was expected to be completed in 2019.

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Efforts made to all the concerned officials, including ACS Amrit, over the last couple of days to seek their comments could not succeed as they did not pick up the calls or responded to the whatsapp messages.

Engineer-in-chief, RCD Hanuman Chaudhary declined to comment. “We will look into the engineering aspect once the BRPNNL sends its report on it,” he said.

BRPNNL MD Sunil Kumar, who claimed he was not directly associated with the construction during his posting as deputy chief engineer in the project, also declined to comment, citing the ongoing probe by Amrit.

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Other officials too are tight-lipped and pin hope on the outcome of the case being heard by the Patna high court. “The claims of removal of debris from river Ganga are another eyewash, as there is no proven technology for the purpose. Moreover, it will not be easy to remove the debris when the river has turned in spate and also because the ecology of the river, which is being developed as the dolphin sanctuary,” said an engineer who didn’t wish to be named.

On June 7, the HC, taking cognisance of a public interest litigation filed by a Congress leader, Lalan Kumar, had asked the managing director of SP Singla Construction Limited and the state government to file a detailed reply within two weeks on the collapse of bridge.

Also Read: NHAI picks SP Singla to build new 6-lane bridge on Ganga in Patna

The next hearing is due on August 12, according to petitioner’s advocate Chandan Kumar. He said the respondents could not file their reply as directed by the court and had hence sought addition time.

Advocate general PK Shahi had appeared on behalf of the government.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee, in its preliminary report submitted to the government within days after the June 5 collapse, had pointed out faults in “design and workmanship along with issues with construction materials”, which led to the disaster.

For its part, the RCD, soon after the incident, had claimed to have initiated the process for black-listing the construction company, which was given 15 days to reply. However, no official in the department is able to tell the progress on that front.

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