Bridge collapses under weight of B’luru officials’ apathy, people struggle for water

Congress MLA NA Haris and supporters were crossing the make-shift bridge asking for votes when it collapsed.
Bridge collapses under weight of B’luru officials’ apathy, people struggle for water
Bridge collapses under weight of B’luru officials’ apathy, people struggle for water
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72-year-old Muttamma, a resident of ISRO Colony settlement held on to the railing of the broken bridge. Muttamma slowly climbed on to a ladder which was laid between two broken parts of the bridge. When she reached the end of the ladder, a few residents helped her up.

This was not happening in a remote location in Karnataka, but right in the heart of Bengaluru city.

ISRO Colony, in Cambridge Layout, is located on one the side of the primary storm water drain in the area. A makeshift metal footbridge, which is about 4 ft in width and 52 ft in length, is the only path which connects the settlement to the main road of Cambridge Layout.

On Tuesday morning, the bridge collapsed when Shantinagar MLA NA Haris and around 100 of his followers set out to meet the residents of the colony to ask for votes. As the procession reached the middle of the bridge located over a stinking, garbage and sewage-infested storm water drain, it fell as it could not withstand the weight of so many people on it.

An angry Muttamma got down the bridge mumbling curses at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and the local MLA NA Haris for the horrible state of affairs.

Just like Muttamma, around 4,000 residents of Isro Colony are risking their lives while crossing to the main road climbing over wooden planks (broken doors) that have been placed over the collapsed bridge.  

The broken bridge rests precariously on a pile of stones and concrete, which had been dumped by the BBMP five years ago.

“We have managed to put some scraps and connect the two broken halves of the bridge but it is dangerous. Old people cannot walk properly on this. Children have been slipping frequently while trying to cross the bridge since it fell,” says Paliniswamy, a 63-year-old resident of the settlement.

The mishap has also caused the borewell to rupture, leaving the residents to struggle for drinking water.

“This is the only borewell from which we get drinking water. We have closed the ruptured part on top for now but that will not last for long. It’s difficult to go from one end of the bridge to the other to get water because the pipeline connecting the borewell to the houses broke when the bridge fell,” says Sharath, a resident.

Locals allege that when the bridge collapsed, MLA NA Haris, the local Congress corporator Lakshminarayana Gundanna and a few supporters fell into the storm water drain.

“Haris and Lakshminarayana also fell into the rajakaluve (storm water drain). The people from the slum came immediately and helped everyone,” Paliniswamy adds.

Except for two-year-old Shalini, none of the residents or Congress workers were injured. Shalini sustained minor injuries and was administered first aid.

How the original concrete bridge collapsed

“Five years ago, the BBMP workers had come here and dumped a lot of stones and concrete inside the rajakaluve. They said that within the next few days they would construct high concrete walls on both sides and later begin the clean-up work,” he added.

But that promise was never kept.

Sharath says that while the concrete and stones were being dumped into the storm water drain, the earth mover demolished the existing concrete bridge.

“That’s when they constructed a makeshift bridge. They got some pieces of iron sheets and welded it together. That sheet was laid out as a connector. But yesterday (Tuesday) there were too many people on the bridge and even that collapsed. It has been five years and now he is coming to ask for votes. We don’t even have a bridge,” Sharath said.

Health concerns

Residents allege that the stench emanating from the garbage-and-sewage-riddled storm water drain is causing health issues. Over the past five years, two people died after they  contracted chikungunya more than once.

“We have been asking the BBMP, the corporator and also Haris to clean up the rajakaluve for five years now. The drain stinks. This year there were also four cases of malaria and five cases of dengue,” said Muttamma.

Residents of the settlement in Isro Colony have decided to launch a protest against the BBMP and the local MLA if the bridge was not fixed soon. They also alleged that they will boycott voting if their demands were not met and the work on cleaning up the drain did not begin.

“We have begged the BBMP many times. Now that elections are here BBMP is listening to MLAs and doing work. When there are no elections, no one cares. So, should we expect tokenism once every five years in exchange for our votes? We will not vote until we get what we want. The candidates are the ones to lose. They think of us as commodities who will vote for them if they give us some goodies once in five years,” an angry Muttamma added.

The BBMP Special Commissioner Vijay Shanker had visited the site on Tuesday afternoon. The Palike’s workers have brought two giant iron pillars and a few metal sheets to construct another bridge.

“Usually, the BBMP hires migrant labourers to work on such constructions. Many have gone home to West Bengal and once they come back, we will install the bridge in a day or two,” the Special Commissioner added.

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