A tale of two Brahmani bridges or two confronting parties

By Sabyasachi Amitav

The long awaited and much delayed second bridge over river Brahmani has taken a turn for the worse. Confrontationism prevails, and we seem to be witnessing a return to the ghost of State versus Centre war. What has gone wrong? This article is an analysis and an appeal.

If we look the past, the first bridge on Brahmani River was constructed in the 1960s after the Rourkela Steel Plant was launched in 1955 in order to provide plant road connection. At that time the bridge’s life was estimated at 100 years.  With the industrial area growing, the bridge witnessed more than expected traffic of heavy vehicles, making it weaker. The bridge developed cracks and repairs failed, leading to long hours of traffic problems.

This is how the need for second bridge on the Brahmani arose in the 1990s. The National Highway Authority engaged many companies for surveys and reports were submitted in time too. In 2012 when there was a Congress government at Centre, a budget of Rs 884 crore was sanctioned. Gamon India was awarded the construction contract and the company opened an office in Rourkela and started work on a war footing. But Unfortunately, the work halted after the cropping up of some problems regarding land acquisition. The residents of Balughat and Panposh started opposing the project, forcing the construction company to withdraw from the project after the state government did not take any steps to solve problems. Since then the bridge has been a big issue for political parties as they are trying to get mileage out of it.

With demand from various quarters growing shriller for the second bridge in last five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced construction of the bridge soon during his speech at Rourkela in April 2015 and Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had laid the foundation stone in July after his party MLA Dillip Ray had made a hue and cry over the delay.

Sources said that the centre had decided to convert the proposed bridge from two-lane to six-lane. The bridge on the NH-143 connects two major towns of the state – Sambalpur and Rourkela.

But the issue had taken a political turn after Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik came and supported the Rourkela MLA Dillip Ray’s demand for a second bridge. Ray had criticised the Prime Minister for not honouring the commitment that he had made during his visit to Rourkela. The MLA had said that he had met the Prime Minister seven times and the ministers concerned several times but no action had been taken.

Suddenly the issue took a political turn, when Chief minister Naveen Patnaik accusing the Centre of not being serious about the project and expressed the state government’s eagerness to build it with its own resources. After that the issue turned into a full blown  letter war between Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.

People also do not take well the questions from various circle that why the Naveen led Odisha government was sleeping till today while NHAI not started construction works on the river more than a decade ago?

On the otherside, it seems that the after Mahanadi, this issue has become a spike the throat of Odisha BJP which is difficult to swallow down or vomit up.

Is it Naveen’s love for rourkela or game plan to bring Dilip Ray back ?