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

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Ku­nal Puro­hit ku­nal.puro­hit@hin­dus­tan­ Im­tiaz Ah­mad and Jayanth Ja­cob let­ters@hin­dus­tan­ HT Cor­re­spon­dent ht­metro@hin­dus­tan­

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.


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