Sunday, June 23, 2013

Public pressure puts the brakes on railway plan to sell bridge as scrap

B.V.S. Bhaskar

  
A view of the Havelock Bridge across the Godavari in Andhra Pradesh.— PHOTO: S. RAMBABU
A view of the Havelock Bridge across the Godavari in Andhra Pradesh.— PHOTO: S. RAMBABU
Pressure from the public and political parties has forced the Railway Board to keep in abeyance its decision to sell as scrap the 116-year-old bridge across the Godavari here.
Only last week, local MLA R. Suryaprakasha Rao of the Congress issued a statement that he was informed by the General Manager, South Central Railway, of the Board’s decision to dismantle the historic Havelock Bridge and sell the steel as scrap through auction.
Stoutly opposing the decision, political parties have even chalked out a plan of agitation. An all-party meeting, which was not attended by representatives of the ruling Congress, set July 1 as the deadline for the Andhra Pradesh government to make a statement that it would take all steps to protect the bridge.
In the absence of official confirmation, different versions are doing the rounds about the Railway Board’s plans vis-à-vis the bridge.
According to one version, the Railways are keen to hand over the bridge to the State government.
In a letter to N. Srinivas, president of the Rajahmundry Chamber of Commerce and member of Zonal Railway Consumers Committee, Principal Chief Engineer, Works Division, South Central Railway, Secunderabad, has said: “The Ministry of Railways has decided to hand over the old railway bridge across the Godavari to the State government on fulfilling the conditions of payment by the State government. The State government is yet to accept the terms advised by the Railway Board.”
In April 2010, Vundavalli Arun Kumar, Congress MP, appealed to Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee in Parliament that the Havelock Bridge be converted into an integrated tourism development project. Following this, the Municipal Corporation of Rajahmundry passed a resolution offering to pay Rs.10 lakh as deposit for handing over the bridge. On its part, the State government agreed to pay Rs.1 lakh per annum to the Railways for a 50-year lease. When contacted by The Hindu , Additional Divisional Railway Manager Subbarao, said he had no information about any move to auction the bridge.

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