Kolkata, July 22 : Howrah bridge today presents one of the most endearing images of modern-day Kolkata, connecting people living on the banks of River Hugli in West Bengal.
Many believe, irrespective of the one's medium of transport, a trip from Howrah city to the State capital Kolkata or vice-versa across the River Hugli, it feels as if one is traveling under the watchful eyes of this majestic bridge.
Millions of pedestrians and thousands of vehicles use the Howrah Bridge, which has a span of 1,500-foot and a roadway of 71-foot width with two 15-foot cantilever footways. Calcutta Port Trust has been entrusted its maintenance responsibility.
Since its inauguration in 1943, the Howrah Bridge has been the center of myriad activities, which keeps on taking place under its shadow.
While brisk business is carried on at the 100-year-old fish market on the Howrah end of the bridge, on the other bank is the famous flower market. Both markets together provide livelihood for over 100,000 persons. Besides, several thousand people visit these markets from far off places everyday.
All acknowledge their debt to the great iron monument towering across the skyline, binding pre-independent India to an independent nation, one decade to another, one generation to another.
About 26,500 tonnes of steel was used for constructing Howrah Bridge by theleveland Bridge Company.
According to the Port Trust Chairman A. K. Chanda, the mounting pressure on Howrahridge was reduced after the Vidyasagar Setu (known as the second Hugli Bridge) came into existence and the most recent Nivedita Bridge was opened to traffic.
"Howrah Bridge is the busiest bridge of the world. More than a 100,000 passengers and several thousand vehicles ply here everyday... and virtually it was the only link for a long time. In 1992 that Hugli River Bridge, Vidhyasagar Setu, was put in place. There is another bridge that came up but it was not patronized so much at least for several years. The reason was that the Howrah Bridge was toll-free. Recently another bridge Nivedita Setu (Bridge) has come up. This (presence of other bridges) has given some kind of relief to the Howrah Bridge," said A .K. Chanda.
Today , Howrah Bridge is the lifeline which connects the twin cities of Howrah city and Kolkata.
Howrah station, the main railway station, connecting Kolkata, is situated across the bridge from Kolkata and every passenger intending to visit the metropolis depends on the bridge to make their wish come true.
The Howrah bus terminus, the main link to and fro Kolkata, too is located adjacent to the bridge.
For thousands of commuters coming from the suburbs to the city to earn their livelihood, Howrah Bridge is the arterial connection.
Many have been known to walk across the bridge comfortably when there are traffic snarls, demonstrations or even shutdowns to reach their destinations.
However, despite there being three bridges over the Hugli River connecting to Kolkata, Howrah Bridge continues to remain the favourite and busiest among all may be because of being toll-free.
Howrah Bridge is stated to be India's biggest, world's busiest, the longest single span and the third longest cantilever bridge in the world.
"Our fish market is the biggest in Asia, or I may say, the second biggest in Asia. The connection (between Kolkata and Howrah) is vital for us due to our fish market. The bridge connects the buyers from both sides of the Howrah Bridge. The bridge is bridging the gap between the fish market and the Kolkata city or that part of the city (Howrah) not just Kolkata," said Said Anwar Maqsood, secretary, Fish Importer Association, Kolkata.
In 1965, Howrah Bridge was renamed Rabindra Setu after India's first Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.
Considering the significant role the Howrah Bridge has been playing for decades in people's lives in the is region of the country, it's today unimaginable to think of Kolkata skyline without Howrah Bridge. By Soma Mitra