Kolkata: Those residing in the Burra Bazar area of state capital Kolkata still remain traumatized five days after the collapse of the under-construction flyover. The Vivekananda flyover caved in suddenly at 12:32 pm on 31st of March, trapping many pedestrians and vehicles underneath. Death toll raised up to 27 and about 80 people were injured according to official figures. Victims included construction workers, taxi drivers and their passengers, pedestrians and many others who were in the vicinity. However, several witnesses claim there were more than 200 people under the flyover when it collapsed and the death toll could be much higher than what is being stated by the officials. Some of them alleged that the government might have secretly disposed of the dead bodies to keep the death toll low.
The workers of the construction company were busy removing the debris from under the flyover, when I reached the spot of incident. Police had cordoned off the area to prevent the locals from reaching the accident site. Some posters reading ‘Ro Mat, Awaaz Uthao (Raise your Voice Instead of Crying)’, ‘Our Silence is their strength,’ ‘Will we live our next birthday?’, ‘Why a blacklisted IVRCL’, ’No more City of Joy’ etc. There were some posters asking ‘Only 25?? Give us the correct numbers’. These posters were unsigned and was an indication that people were still afraid of accusing the ruling party. Most of the locals were reluctant to respond on the issue.
“Not only 25 people died, but a larger number might have perished. A number of rickshaw pullers and pedestrians were under the bridge. A group of poor people were waiting there to get food from the temple. Where did all these people go? Dead or alive?” asks a rickshaw puller who witnessed the accident. “We are poor people. We don’t know who is responsible for this mishap. It may be the government, or the officers or the people who got the tender. There were some flaws in the construction,” he added.
‘There were more than 200 hundred people under the bridge,’ says another witness. Piyali Paul, candidate of All India Forward Bloc in the Shyampukur constituency also vouched the claim of the locals. “I think the ruling party has removed all the dead bodies,” she accused.
When I reached the Marwari Relief Hospital, which is located less than 500 metres from the accident spot, the security guards did not allow me to enter the hospital. He stated there is no one admitted from the particular accident and asked me to leave immediately. When I refused to leave, two brutish individuals asked me to leave. At the Kolkata Medical College, I could meet only one injured, who was an employee of the IVRCL, the Hyderabad based company tasked with the construction of the ill-fated flyover. When I started talking to him, a plainclothesman who was hovering around there, ordered the security to send me out. It is dubious that the state government has deployed shadow police in civil dress to observe the injured people and their visitors in the hospital.
Many people suspect that the death toll must be much higher than what the government claims. Despite the climate of fear there were some who dared to question the flawed governmental policies which led to such a disaster. Locals vented their anger when Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee visited the accident site. Many onlookers were seen chanting “Chor hei, Sab chor hei”.
Sovan Chatterjee was seen accepting cash from Narada News editor-in-chief Mathew Samuel posing as a representative of a Chennai based fictitious company in the sting video X Files. The flyover collapsed as Mamata Banerjee’s embattled Trinamool Congress was trying to recover from the sting. In the unedited sting footage of Sovan Chatterjee, he can be heard discussing about the very same flyover with his associate in Bengali.