Row over faulty bridges in Kerala: UDF to pay LDF back in its own coin

Battle over bridges in Kerala: Caught in Palarivattom, UDF plans to checkmate LDF over Vyttila flyover
Thrikkakkara MLA P T Thomas (centre) at a protest meet organised by the Congress at Vyttila on Tuesday.

Kochi: Corruption allegations in the construction of Vyttila flyover in Kochi in Ernakulam district couldn't have come at a more opportune time for the Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala.

Having faced corruption charges from the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front in the construction of another bridge in the city – the Palarivatttom flyover – for more than three months, the new allegations have given Congress and its allies a weapon to attack their political rivals.

The flaws in Vyttila flyover were detected during a recent inspection by the vigilance wing of the Public Works Department (PWD). The report stated that low-quality concrete has been used for its construction and that the contractor did not react to department's repeated letters about the defects. The findings annoyed the Left Democratic Front government. Subsequently, PWD engineer V K Shylamol, who led the investigation, was suspended from service.

The Congress have already started agitations. The Youth Congress on Tuesday took out a march to the office of the central circle superintendent engineer while the Congress staged a candlelight vigil at Vyttila in the evening. On Monday, Congress leader and Thrikkakara MLA P T Thomas led a a protest.

Battle over bridges in Kerala: Caught in Palarivattom, UDF plans to checkmate LDF over Vyttila flyover
Youth Congress activists stage a protest at Vyttila on Tuesday.

“The government should make public the inspection reports that found fault with the construction of the flyover. People have a right to know about it,” Thomas told Onmanorama.

UDF leaders said they would raise the suspension of Shylamol as a major issue in the coming days. Ernakulam District Congress Committee president T J Vinod said the action against the engineer cannot be justified. “The government should ask veteran engineer E Sreedharan to conduct a study,” Vinod said.

By-election issue

The Palarivattom flyover in Kochi has been closed for the past three months after experts found defects in its construction. The bridge was built when United Democratic Front was in power. The Left Democratic Front had demanded action against former Public Works Minister V K Ebrahimkunju under whose tenure major works of the flyover were done.

Sreedharan had inspected the Palarivattom flyover after and suggested remedial measures.

Battle over bridges in Kerala: Caught in Palarivattom, UDF plans to checkmate LDF over Vyttila flyover

An IIT-Madras team which inspected the Palarivattom bridge is yet to submit its final report to the government.

It is learnt that the DCC is planning to rope in senior Congress leaders Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala to lead the agitation. Chandy was the chief minister when the bridge was being constructed.

The allegations over Vyttila flyover assumes significance in the wake of the impending by-election to the Ernakulam assembly polls. The allegations have surfaced at a time when the LDF was planning to make the corruption charges over Palarivattom flyover a major poll issue. It remains to be seen if UDF can checkmate the ruling front with the fresh charges.

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