Story of a bridge

Bogibeel bridge

Construction of the much-awaited rail-cum-road bridge over the Brahmaputra connecting Dibrugarh on the south with Dhemaji on the north, has been finally completed. The fifth bridge across the Brahmaputra, the Bogibeel bridge is 4.94 km in length, and has been constructed by the Northeast Frontier Railway. While the 9.5-km Bhupen Hazarika Setu connecting Dhola and Sadiya in Tinsukia district is the longest bridge of any kind in the country, the Bogibeel bridge is the longest rail-cum-road bridge in the country. It is also the third rail-cum-road bridge built on the river, the other two being at Pandu-Saraighat and Goalpara-Jogighopa respectively. While the state-owned consultancy and project management enterprise Rites (Rail India Technical and Engineering Services) undertook the pre-construction studies, geo-technical investigations and detailed design of the rail-road bridge, a company called Top-Notch Engineers was involved in the design and drawings of the bridge. Companies that were involved in the construction included Gammon India (which constructed the 42 well-foundations and substructure), Bhartia Infra Projects (an Assam-based firm that supplied aggregates for the bridge under sub-contract from Gammon India, constructed guide bunds and approach embankments on the south bank), Essar Steel (which supplied 20,000 tons of steel for the bridge project), and a joint venture of Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), Germany-based DSD Brouckenbau and VNR Infrastructures (which built the superstructure of the bridge).

Till now popularly referred to as the Bogibeel bridge because of a place known by that name on the south bank, it is an excellent example of how construction of important infrastructure projects are delayed in our country, and more particularly in the North-eastern Region. The foundation stone of the bridge was laid way back on January 22, 1997 by the then prime minister of India HD Deve Gowda. More than five years later, another prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did yet another honour by ‘inaugurating’ the actual construction work of the bridge. Come December 25, 2018, and prime minister Narendra Modi will formally inaugurate the bridge. Look at the cost escalation that the bridge suffered from. While the original estimate was Rs 1,767 crore, the cost went up by more than three times, with the total expenditure working out to Rs 5,500 when it was finally completed now. Who is to be blamed for this inordinate delay in completion of the bridge and the huge cost escalation that it suffered? Definitely all the companies and organisations including NF Railway, RITES and HCC that have been mentioned above are responsible for inordinate delay in completion of the bridge.
Also responsible for the delay are numerous organisations of Assam who had called bandhs and blockades to press for fulfilment of their various demands, and also all those organisations – from student bodies to bihu committee – which had carried out extortion from the companies and contractors involved in construction of the bridge in the name of donations. One must also hold the elected representatives of the people – the MPs and MLAs – who by and large remained silent from demanding to know why the bridge construction was delayed, who were responsible for the delay and what kind of punitive action would they face for causing this delay. Meanwhile, the people must remain prepared for a few more bandhs, this time over what the name of the bridge should be.