The Tribune – Batala bridge on last legs, DC orders repair

Ravi Dhaliwal, Tribune News Service

Batala – Panjab – India, 06 September 2018. Deputy Commissioner Vipul Ujwal has ordered immediate repair of the six-decade-old Hansli Bridge, considered to be the lifeline of the city, and removal of encroachments from the bridge.

The ‘Babe da vyaah’ (Guru Nanak’s marriage) celebrations are slated to be held on 16 September, Lakh of devotees and hundreds of motorists are expected to use the bridge that day.

The bridge’s dilapidated condition was recently brought to the notice of Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh by social activist Jagjot Singh Sandhu.

He had sent an email and pictures, following which the authorities spurred into action.

On Wednesday, the DC held a meeting with SDM Rohit Gupta and Municipal Committee Executive Officer Bhupinder Singh, where he ordered immediate removal of illegal structures dotting both sides of the bridge. Deliberations were held among officials on Thursday too to find a remedy.

More than 30,000 people use the passage every day. To make things worse, iron barricades constructed in 2014 during the tenure of DC Abhinav Trikha to stop the flow of heavy traffic, were removed by vested interests over a period of time.

Fifty school buses also pass over the bridge daily. The DC has also ordered the MC to establish the barricades within the next 48 hours.

Sources say the administration may have a tough time in removing the politically backed encroachments.

“This is a crucial vote bank for parties. In the past too, efforts were made to remove them, but to no avail,” said an officer.

However, Ujwal said, “We have begun the process of identifying land where these people can relocate. I know the condition of the bridge is indeed fragile and the need of the hour is to immediately repair it.”

The bridge, according to PWD officials, has outlived its utility. It was first constructed during the British rule but was washed away by the 1955 floods dividing the city into two parts. Later, it was rebuilt in 1957. Since then, a majority of the town’s population travels on it daily.

A senior official said Batala was the eighth largest city of Punjab in terms population after Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala, Bathinda, Mohali and Hoshiarpur. The town’s economy would be hit if the bridge collapses.

“This is apart from the damage it can inflict to human lives, including schoolchildren,” claimed Sandhu.

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