Dharamsala, August 23
Amid a blame game over the collapse of the colonial-era rail bridge over the Chakki rivulet in Kangra, a meeting has been scheduled between Himachal Chief Secretary RD Dhiman and Northern Railway officials on August 26 to discuss early restoration of the link.
HC panel called for mining ban in 2012
- In 2012, the HP HC had formed a panel to look into the damage to railway and road bridges
- Headed by then Kangra DC RS Gupta, the panel suggested ban on mining within 500 metres of the bridges
Built in 1928 by the British, a portion of the bridge collapsed on August 20 after being damaged in a flash flood following heavy rain. The narrow gauge line connected Jogindernagar in Himachal with Pathankot in Punjab. The Kangra, Pathankot and railway authorities have been blaming each other for the incident. Railway officials claimed that the bridge was damaged due to illegal mining, and that their “repeated reminders to the Punjab and Himachal governments went unheeded”. The district administrations of Kangra and Pathankot, however, maintained that the bridge was “old and the railways had failed to either replace it or carry out timely repairs”. The Chakki rivulet passes through Punjab and HP and brings in huge amounts of gravel during monsoon, which is exploited legally and illegally in both the states. About 100 stone crushers are located on the riverbed itself. About a month ago, one pillar of the railway bridge had developed cracks. The railway authorities had planned repairs, but the pillar was washed away before that could be done.
Kangra Deputy Commissioner Nipun Jindal said a magisterial inquiry had already been ordered. “The role of various government departments of Punjab and Himachal in taking measures to protect the bridge will be ascertained, besides finding out if the railways carried out the required repairs on time,” said Jindal.
Pathankot Deputy Commissioner Harbir Singh said no mining was taking place within 1 km upstream and downstream of the railway bridge. “About eight years ago when the rail bridge was damaged, the railway authorities constructed a platform under the bridge to save it. The NHAI had asked the railways to break the platform as it was diverting entire water flow towards one side. The diversion of 70,000 cusecs towards one pillar can be one of the reasons behind the bridge’s collapse,” he said.
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