Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling said on Monday that a financial assistance of Rs. 1 lakh would be given to the next of kin of those who died and Rs. 25,000 to those injured in the bridge collapse at Bijanbari in West Bengal's Darjeeling district.
Mr. Chamling made the announcement shortly after his arrival at the Bagdogra airport from New Delhi. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, on her way back to Kolkata after a visit to Darjeeling on Sunday, was also present at the airport.
The two leaders met briefly at the airport. The Sikkim government is with the grief-stricken people of Bijanbari, Mr. Chamling said.
The death toll in Saturday's tragedy remains at 32, according to District Magistrate Saumitra Mohan. More than a hundred were injured but several have been discharged from hospitals, he told The Hindu.
The State's Public Works Department, meanwhile, following instructions from the Chief Minister, has started an inspection of the bridges in those parts of north Bengal affected by the tremors caused by the devastating earthquake on September 18 that had its epicentre near the Sikkim-Nepal border.
This comes in the wake of reports that the tremors may have weakened the bridge at Bijanbari.
The State's Irrigation Minister and senior Congress leader, Manas Bhunia, visited the North Bengal Medical College Hospital as well as the district hospital in Darjeeling, where most of the injured are admitted.
“I have come to Darjeeling under instructions from the All India Congress Committee,” Dr. Bhunia said.
Countering criticism by leaders of the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) that the Left Front governments had failed to carry out maintenance of the bridge, the former Minister for Urban Development, Ashok Bhattacharya, who will be visiting Bijanbari on Tuesday, said the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) was responsible for not ensuring the upkeep of the bridge over the past few years.
He also blamed the GJM leadership for not taking any measure to keep people, who had converged at Bijanbari to attend a function organised by the party, to stay away from the bridge.
As for the Chief Minister's visit to the district, he said it was nothing but a “populist” move.
“She decided against visiting Bijanbari as she would have to face the ire of the people for the administration's failure to control the crowd resulting in the tragedy,” he alleged.