Days after bridge theft, Bihar decides to auction all unused bridges as scrap

BIHAR GOVERNMENT has decided to identify and auction all unused iron bridges in the state as scrap, days after thieves dismantled and took away a 60-foot-long abandoned iron bridge in Rohtas district. The Water Resources Department has asked chief engineers of all divisions to assess unused bridges to help prevent any such theft in future.

Bihar Water Resources Minister Sanjay Kumar Jha told The Indian Express: “We have suspended two engineers for dereliction of duty and served showcause notice to chief and superintending engineers…. We have now asked all districts to identify such bridges so that we can have a policy to dismantle them and earn some revenue.”

Asked about the estimated number of unused bridges, Jha said: “Our engineers are assessing it.”Police in Rohtas district have so far arrested eight persons, including Sone Canal Division assistant engineer Radhe Shyam Singh, in connection with the April 4 theft of the iron bridge in Nasriganj. Constructed in 1972, the bridge had been left unused since 2002 after a new parallel bridge was constructed.

Rohtas SP Ashish Bharti told reporters: “We also found involvement of some local residents and some iron scrap has also been recovered.”

Last year, an old railway engine was stolen with connivance of a railway employee in Purnea, a police officer at state headquarters said. “Similar pattern is seen in the Rohtas case. Since we see a pattern of possible scrap mafia involving government officials and locals, we have sounded alerts in all districts to keep extra vigil on unused iron bridges across the state in coordination with road construction and water resources departments,” the officer said.

In the FIR lodged in Nasriganj Police Station on April 6 in connection with the Rohtas case, Arshal Kamal Shamshi, junior engineer, Sone Canal Upper Division, said: “Two days ago, some unknown people cut away the iron bridge. Local villagers said some people came with machines and claimed that they had been asked by the (Water Resources) Department to cut away the unused bridge. When I called my counterpart in mechanical division in Dehri, he said no such order was given from his end.”

The police lodged a case under IPC Section 379 (theft, with imprisonment of up to three years).

Shamsi, one of the two engineers suspended now, said: “I had come to know about the bridge being stolen only a day later. We are short-staffed and hence find it difficult to monitor a large number of canals and bridges.”

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