SRINAGAR: Gone are the days when Jammu and Kashmir’s Roads and Buildings department needed the Indian Army to lay down bridges – the truss-type bridges that are portable, pre-fabricated, and made of connected units. Since the floods of September 2014, the technicians of the department are doing themselves the work of putting in place or removing from place such bridges, which are usually called Bailey bridges after their British inventor Donald Bailey, who was a civil servant in the British War Office when he came up with the design in 1941.
The department made no boast of this learning but had to confess it when an RTI query sought information about the use of such portable bridges. The department replied that in the past it had to take help of the Indian Army’s engineering units because of lack of knowhow and expertise in carrying such work, but now its manpower had become fully conversant with the job of launching and dismantling of Bailey bridges. Since the floods of September 2014, the department’s technical team was carrying out this job, the reply under RTI said.
Bailey bridges, an innovation in the times of the Second World War, began to be widely used in Kashmir in the post-militancy period, as bridges damaged during the years of militancy could be replaced with ease using prefabricated steel bridges. The bridges were also used in the wake of the September 2104 floods to ease connectivity to many areas cut off by water.
The reply mentions that presently 40 such bridges exist in Kashmir province with the highest number being in Baramulla district. The longest bridge, though, has been set up at Surisyar in Budgam district over a length of 150 feet.
About their purchase, the department replied that some of the existing 40 bridges were procured by the state’s Public Works Department and some from money provided by the Government of India. Prior to September 2014, the bridges were being set in place by the army as it was understood that the PWD lacked necessary expertise for the task.
The reply mentioned that no charges were paid to the Army for setting up such bridges, nor any user charges levied by the army for their use.
About the amount spent on the purchases, the reply said that the department had spent from its funds Rs 5.25 crore to purchase nine such bridges since 1990, mostly from Kolkata-based Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd.
The reply mentioned the fact that the department at present did not owe any money to the company that supplied them.
For all the advantages of a Bailey bridge, the department said in its reply that a permanent bridge was more viable and the government does not intend to adopt the use of portable bridges to improve connectivity to remote areas.