SRINAGAR: While Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was busy inaugurating 56 foot bridges in Udhampur in Jammu, Roads and Buildings (R&B) department was bulldozing Mehjoor Nagar Bridge in Srinagar, disconnecting thousands of people from the city center.
Closure of the bridge forced a large number of residents from Mehjoor Nagar and its adjoining areas including Padshahibagh and Lasjan to take to streets. Though the authorities had declared the bridge unsafe for vehicular movement about two years ago but why it remained open till date and was closed suddenly needs answers.
Due to the closure of the bridge, people living in areas like Natipora, Nowgam, Pantha Chowk, Channapora and Barzulla have been forced to travel a long distance to reach city center Lal chowk.
The protesters alleged that authorities bulldozed a portion of the bridge without consulting local residents.
“Along with police officials, Roads & Buildings (R&B) department officials razed a portion of the bridge to disconnect a huge area,” said Umar Altaf, a protester.
“The authorities should have stopped the traffic movement instantly after September 2014 floods, but they didn’t do so because there was lot of money involved. Tipper drivers used to pay hefty amount to authorities to cross the bridge,” another protester said.
Zahoor Ahmad, a local resident said that they shall have to travel more than thirty kilometers through Rambagh bridge to reach city centre Lal Chowk, which otherwise is just three kilometers away.
“The closure of the bridge will create lot of problems for the people residing in the said areas especially in case of emergencies. Also, children will face issues travelling all the way to their respective schools,” Ahmad said.
The protesters said they are ready to buy barricades out of their pockets to stop heavy vehicular movement on the bridge.
“Fact is, the bridge is unsafe for heavy vehicular movement and we want light vehicles to ply normally to maintain connectivity with the city,” said Mohammad Sharief, a protester.
The locals claimed that the officials have warned them of dire consequences if they dared to protest the closure of the bridge and took to streets.
“We will shoot at sight if you even try to carry out a protest demonstration in future,” they claimed to have been told by the administration.
Talking to Kashmir Reader, Chief Engineer R&B Satish Razdan said the bridge was not bulldozed traffic movement was stopped as it had been already declared unsafe for vehicular movement about two years ago.
“The department tried to disconnect traffic movement over the bridge to save lives,” Razdan said.