Bihar bridges on falling spree amid rise of ‘thekedars’ on Nitish’s watch

Bihar Bridge collapse

Image credit X @YesitasTHakur

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13 bridges collapse in 3-week to spotlight neta-thekedar nexus in Bihar

By Manish Anand

New Delhi, July 11: Thirteen bridges have been swept away in the first spells of the Monsoon rains in less than a month in Bihar. More bridges had come crashing down even when waters in the rivers were still in the last four years in Bihar.

The thirteenth bridge came crashing down in Mahishi in the Saharsa district of Bihar. In place of Monsoon floods, Bihar is ironically battling a spate of falling bridges.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was in a furious state of mind in the state capital yesterday. He asked a local contractor if he should touch his feet so that works on a road get expedited.

The Bihar chief minister had shot to the fame in his first tenure, 2005-10, for his road and bridge building spree. He was the toast of the national media, as Kumar led Bihar out of the dark days of ‘jungle raj’ of previous 15 years.

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Around the same time a new class of ‘thekedars (contractors)’ was born in Bihar. The liberal norms in tenders allowed this new class of ‘thekedars’ to take contracts for building roads and bridges.

The quick journey to riches of this class of ‘thekedars’ fuelled an aspiration among the youth in Bihar to bag government contracts. Now, Bihar may possibly be battling the problem of plenty of ‘thekedars’.

Since 2020, bridges are falling in Bihar, while gaining national attention. As many as seven bridges came crashing down since 2020 until it took a furious turn to send another 13 into the waters in just three weeks.

“Since these thekedars are themselves without any technical backgrounds, they resorted to employing diploma holders in works of building bridges, roads, and irrigation canals. They also majorly employed workers from their respective villages,” said a senior ranking manager of one Bihar-based contractor.

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In less than two decades, some of such ‘thekedars’ became builders, first building housing societies in Patna and afterwards in Noida, Greater Noida, and Ghaziabad. “They are awash with so much of cash that they are even buying hotels in Europe. They are now key spokes in the political wheels of Bihar,” explained another staffer of a Bihar-based firm.

Out of the total 20 bridges that have been buried into the river waters, only one had the British-era legacy. Bihar still has several of the British-era bridges.

“Now, we are crossing the British-built bridge,” railway passengers will often say when trains enter Bihar after Deen Dayal Upadhya Station, formerly Mughalsarai, in Uttar Pradesh.

While the ‘thekedars’ employ engineers allegedly with dubious backgrounds, Bihar now boasts of as many as 38 engineering colleges. A total of 14,000 seats annually are on offer to students to take up engineering courses in Bihar.

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