The decision to postpone the inauguration of the third bridge over the River Mandovi confirms that the inauguration of the bridge had been slated for January 12 only for political reasons. The reason proffered for the postponement of the bridge opening is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be available on that day to visit Goa as he will be occupied with the BJP National Executive meeting. Strangely, wasn’t the local BJP unit aware of this earlier? Or is there another reason for not inaugurating the bridge on that date? The decision actually follows criticism of the bridge being inaugurated without being ready and raises questions on whether the entire length of the bridge and flyover can be completed in the next 14 days.
Despite the bridge appearing to be far from ready, the authorities had gone ahead and announced its opening on January 12, even earlier this month releasing pictures of a rare visit by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar out of his private residence to inspect the progress of construction of the bridge. Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation still claims that the bridge will be completed by January 12 and it is only the inauguration that is being rescheduled on another date. GSIDC vice-chairman says that the engineers of the constructing firm are conducting all the required tests and if they are ready with inauguration date there is no reason to block it. The opposition, however, may feel differently on the issue.
A day before the announcement that the inauguration had been postponed, the opposition Congress had criticised the decision to inaugurate it, and its Curtorim MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco had written to the Chief Minister asking whether it was the code of conduct that will soon be in place for the Lok Sabha polls of 2019 and also the bypolls to the Mandrem and Shiroda Assembly constituencies, that was the reason for the early inauguration of the bridge, that he said was far from ready. Lourenco had also pointed out that the Khandepar Bridge had been opened without it being completed.
The bridge has already overshot its completion deadline by two years and there have been several cost escalations, turning this into a very costly project. The original investment had been envisaged at Rs 470 crore with a completion date of January 2017 but the cost has now reached almost double that amount, even as the bridge still remains to be completed.
Will the bridge be opened for traffic even if it is not inaugurated? Or will Goa have to wait until there is a VIP who is free to formally inaugurate the bridge? This brings back memories of the early 1980s, when the bridge over the River Zuari had been completed but was not opened for traffic as the government could not find a suitable personality to inaugurate it. Old timers still remember that Indian Police Officer Kiran Bedi, who had been posted in Goa to handle the traffic arrangements for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Retreat that was scheduled in Goa, to remove the barricades on either end and let traffic over the bridge.
Claims that the bridge is completed can be made, only when the last workman leaves the construction site. This doesn’t appear to be likely anytime soon, despite the fact that the pace of work has hastened considerably. Goa’s wait for the bridge has already extended to two years beyond the date that it was originally expected to be completed. The State and its people can wait for the bridge another few weeks or months that it takes to get it fully completed. There is no need to be hasty and inaugurate the link for political reasons until it is entirely ready.