Days after the authorities brought the riot police down on Vasai just to keep locals off the east-west bridge, the local police have now brought charges of ‘unlawful assembly’ on 15 people for throwing the bridge open last week. No arrests have been made, but locals have taken strong objection to the FIR, saying that the police should instead charge the officials who delayed the construction and inauguration of the flyover for so long, which eventually pushed the public to take matters into their own hands on Wednesday.
MMRDA ostensibly put labourers to work installing view-cutters along the Vasai flyover yesterday, a day after mid-day pointed out that there were no signs of work being carried out there. Pics/Hanif Patel
Already delayed by five years, the bridge had been ready for a month but the authorities had delayed inaugurating it. On June 15, frustrated locals decided that they had had enough of traffic jams and decided to open it themselves. But hours later, the MMRDA closed the bridge and the very next day, the SRPF was deployed to keep people away.
In this aerial view, on the left is the new Vasai east-west bridge, which is yet to be opened to the public. On the right is the 50-year-old bridge that often witnesses traffic jams for hours together
Yesterday, the Manikpur police filed an FIR against 10-15 unknown persons for unlawful assembly. Palghar district police PRO, PSI Ranjeet Shirshat said, “We have registered a case against unknown people under Sections 143 and 149 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC. A constable from the local police is the complainant in the case. We are investigating the matter and no arrest has been made.”
This move also drew heavy flak from politicians, who continue to allege that the MMRDA is merely using stalling tactics since it wants to wait for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to inaugurate the flyover (see Political Reactions).
Residents were also under the impression that the inauguration had been held so the CM could do the honours. Newspaper reports had stated that he would cut the ribbon on June 15, but when that didn’t happen either.
'CM wasn’t in picture'
However, a senior CMO official told mid-day that the CM had never given a date to the MRRDA for the inauguration but instead asked the officials to have it opened as early as possible by local public representatives. “We said this to the MMRDA very specifically. The CM was never in the picture in this entire episode,” he said.
Additional metropolitan commissioner Pravin Darade confirmed to this paper that the CM had asked MMRDA to dedicate the flyover to people in the presence of local public representatives. He, however, did not comment on the FIRs that have been filed against the persons who opened the bridge last week. He said that the contractor has been asked to give finishing touches to the flyover in two days (See ‘Work in progress’).
“We will throw the bridge open to traffic immediately after this work is completed. We will invite local MPs and legislators and civic representatives,” he said.
— Inputs by Dharmendra Jore
Work in progress
A day after mid-day highlighted that MMRDA was not even carrying out any work at the bridge, around 10 workers were put to work yesterday, installing view-cutters along the flyover.
Workers were spotted installing view-cutters in the bridge yesterday and they said the bridge would be ready within a day or two
A worker said, “Only 12 view-cutters are left to be installed. No other work is left on the bridge. If it does not rain, all work will be completed in a day.”
The authorities have no intention of opening the bridge which is already five years late, but they have filed a case against common people. This clearly shows that police and politicians do anything they want. The cops should immediately withdraw the case.
At this rate, the police will arrest people and the case will go to court and even then the bridge will remain shut. They will keep waiting for the CM to arrive. The case should be withdrawn and a fresh one should be filed against officials for delaying the bridge for five years.
The case against locals is unacceptable; we are outraged. This issue has frustrated us for many years. One of my relatives did not take her son's admission in a Vasai east school just because it would take hours to travel there from their house in the west.
Rajaram Mulik, NCP working president
It is pressure from the ruling party, BJP, that led to the FIR against locals, because it is an ego issue for them now. The bridge is already late by five years, the locals are outraged. It was not a crime by public, there was nothing wrong in what they did. We will support the people and won’t let the police arrest them.
Kiran Shinde, Congress district secretary
The top BJP ministers and CM do not have time to come and open the bridge, even though it has been ready for a month. At least ambulances should be slowed to ply on the bridge. Due to an ego issue and to take revenge against the people, the police have been pressurised to file a case against locals, which is absolutely wrong. We will make the cops withdraw the case.
Jayendra Patil, MNS taluka president
The BJP wants the CM to come and open the bridge. Public is facing problems and they are angry, therefore they opened the bridge. There is nothing wrong in it. We won’t let them be arrested.
Ajiv Patil, Vasai corporator and spokesperson for Bahujan Vikas Aghadi
Police should let the people and take the case back. However, people also don’t understand some work is left on the bridge. Once the clearance certificate is given, it should be opened. We welcome CM if he comes to open the bridge, since he will definitely announce something good for the people.