Govt ignored alerts about Rajnath talks terror, Pak Mum-Goa highway bridge media blacks out speech NO GOOD OR BAD TERRORISTS: RAJNATH
WARNINGS Successive govts paid no heed; issue was raised in Assembly in 2015
Two days after the collapse of a bridge over the river Savithri at Mahad on the Mumbai-Goa highway, there is growing evidence that it was the result of official apathy and callousness cutting across party lines. This government, and the one before it, ignored repeated warnings that the 100-year-old bridge built by the British could crumble at any moment.
In July last year, Mahad’s MLA, Bharat Gogawale of the Shiv Sena, raised a question in the state assembly saying it could collapse anytime and result in a “major tragedy”.
In its response in January this year, all the State government did was to uproot some vegetation growing out of the bridge’s joints and declare it structurally sound.
Gogawale had said the vegetation had grown and eaten into the foundations of the bridge. In words that now sound prophetic, he had said that the bridge might collapse during the monsoon and result in a major tragedy.
But public works department (PWD) minister Chandrakant Patil had dismissed Gogawale’s fears. “The British-era bridge’s joints had some outgrowth of vegetation, which has been pulled out manually. Every monsoon, an audit is done and such vegetation is pulled out. However, the bridge is structurally sound and traffic flow is smooth,” Patil said, in a written reply.
Patil wasn’t alone. In 2013, a Shiv Sena leader, Shashikant Paryekar, wrote to the then chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, warning him of the delicate condition of many bridges on the Mumbai-Goa Highway.
Home minister Rajnath Singh used a meeting in Pakistan on Thursday to seek the “strongest” action against countries that back terrorism and pilloried those who eulogise terrorists, delivering a terse message that was not covered by the Pakistani media.
Singh did not name any countries or individuals in his speech at the meeting of Saarc interior ministers but there was little doubt he was referring to Pakistan.
The remarks were an apparent reference to the stance adopted by Pakistan on slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani and the subsequent unrest in Kashmir that left about 50 people dead last month. Islamabad angered New Delhi by referring to Wani as a “Kashmiri leader” and a “martyr” besides describing his death as an “extrajudicial killing”.
“If we are to rid ourselves of terrorism, we will have to genuinely believe that attempts to distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ terrorists are misleading, and thus, no type of terrorism or support to it can be justified on any grounds whatsoever,” Singh said in his speech.
“Strongest possible steps need to be taken not only against terrorists and terrorist organisations but also those individuals, Home minister Rajnath Singh (centre) with the Indian govt delegation at Islamabad, Pakistan, on Thursday. institutions, organisations or nations that support them.”
Singh said mere condemnation of terrorism was not enough and that terrorists must not be eulogised or glorified as “martyrs”. Singh, who returned to India late Thursday afternoon, said he would speak in parliament about his visit to Pakistan.
As the SAARC meeting began at Serena Hotel in Islamabad, the frost permeating bilateral ties was plain for all to see. Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was receiving participants at the entrance of the venue and shaking their hands. When Singh and a grimlooking Khan came face-to-face, their hands barely touched before the Indian minister moved into the hall, witnesses said.
In a bid to bring down the number of road accidents and traffic violations, the state government announced a hike in fines for those not wearing a helmet, driving without a valid licence, sporting fancy number plates and indulging in racing. The fines range from Rs500 to Rs2,000.
While bikers found riding without helmets and without valid driving licence will have to pay Rs500 instead of Rs100, owners of vehicles with fancy number plates will be fined Rs1,000 instead of Rs100.
The fine for racing on roads and driving a four wheeler with a valid licence has been increased from Rs1,000 to Rs2,000.
An Official from the transport department said the fines were increased using government’s special powers.
“The Central government is bringing its own bill for higher penalties for violations. The changes made by us are the ones not proposed by the Centre,” he said.
The government, while announcing the decision, said low fines was the reason behind increase in traffic violations by motorists.