There are many expletives that can be hurled at Kolkata for its abysmal failure to protect human lives on the road, and for permitting the most lawless road transport that one could think of.
But notwithstanding the pervading gloom that descends after every road accident which the dwellers have learned to silently take in their stride, the city can still boast its river, some magnificent edifices like the Howrah railway station, and the 3 bridges over the river among those in the fast dwindling list of city’s pride.
The urban decay because of long years of missed governance is writ large on almost every public facet of the city. But when you consider the 3 bridges you cannot help but wonder at the sheer technological feat of their making.
Howrah Station, in front of which lies the filth of pettiness, is perhaps the only major railway station in India that stands on the bank of a beautiful river. No one will know this unless he gazes wonderstruck at the Howrah Bridge that makes him realize that perhaps a wide waterway has passed underneath.
Howrah Bridge, aka Rabindra Setu, is a tad over 66 years in operation. The second Hooghly Bridge, the Vidyasagar Setu, was opened to public by late PM PV Narasimha Rao in October 1992. 2 years back in July 2007 came the third bridge, the Nivedita Setu, alongside the Vivekananda Bridge in Dakhshineswar.
All the 3 inspire awe, specially the first 2. Though Howrah Bridge is the oldest, traffic is still the most there because it is a vital link at a very vital place.
In comparison to 112.162 vehicles a week on Howrah Bridge, the Vidyasagar Setu plies 48,667 vehicles every week. The figure is just 17,038 for the Nivedita Setu – one-seventh that of Howrah Bridge. See the graphics below.
Early this month the railway minister announced plan of upgrading Howrah Station to international standard – whatever that is – in this year’s budget. This is a welcome move, but a major hitch still remains.
Will the upgrading remain confined to the station building only? It must not be so, because the outside of the Howrah Station is in a very bad shape and in crying need of improvement.
The planned world class development must not cease at the gate of the Howrah Station. It must at least extend up to the river bank and till the approach of the bridge. That is why the integrated plan as given in yesterday’s Anandabazar Patrika assumes a lot of significance.