‘Lapses by Oreva firm led to bridge collapse in Gujarat’: SIT report | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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‘Lapses by Oreva firm led to bridge collapse in Gujarat’: SIT report

By, Ahmedabad
Oct 11, 2023 06:40 AM IST

The “Final Report on Morbi Bridge Incident” submitted by the SIT to Gujarat HC also lays blame on three office bearers of the executive committee of the Morbi municipality

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the collapse of a British era bridge in Morbi in 2022, has in its final report pinned blame on the management of Oreva, the company that operated the bridge, its managing director Jaysukh Patel, as well as the chief officer of the Morbi municipality. On October 30, the suspension bridge that was built across the river Macchu in 1887 collapsed into the waters below, plunging 135 people to their deaths, with 56 others injured. Patel was arrested under Indian Penal Code Sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 336 (act which endangers human life), 337 (causing hurt to any person by doing any rash or negligent act), and 338 (causing grievous hurt by doing rash or negligent act) in January this year after spending a few weeks on the run, and is in Morbi jail.

At least 135 people were killed and 56 others injured after a bridge collapse in Gujarat (AP)
At least 135 people were killed and 56 others injured after a bridge collapse in Gujarat (AP)

The “Final Report on Morbi Bridge Incident” submitted by the five member SIT to the Gujarat High Court on Tuesday also lays blame on three office bearers of the executive committee of the Morbi municipality, and said that they had deviated from procedure. HT has seen a copy of the report.

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The report said that the “lackadaisical approach on the part of the management of Oreva company, resulting in one of the most severe and tragic human calamities, cannot be countenanced.” “For this, prima facie, the whole management of the company including its Managing Director and two Managers Dinesh Dave and Deepak Parekh, appears to be responsible. Of course, the apportionment of the said responsibility may differ amongst them, dependent upon the role played by them,” the report says.

Oreva first signed a memorandum of agreement (MoU) with government authorities in August 16, 2008 for about nine years (till June 15, 2017)to run and operate the bridge. The company had claimed that it had sent several letters to the concerned authorities on the dilapidated condition of the bridge post the expiry of the initial MoU, and had asked for an increase in ticket charges that was rejected. “As against this, the concerned authorities told the company to either continue the work at the same user charge or return the possession of the bridge to them. However, the company failed to hand over the bridge to the concerned authority and no corrective action could be taken by the company to improve the condition of the bridge,” the report says.

In March 2022 however, a renewal agreement was signed between Morbi Municipality and Oreva, authorising the company to carry out maintenance, repairs and operate and collect payment of the bridge for 15 years. The company, in turn, gave the contract to a Morbi based firm Dev Prakash Solutions, a “non-competent agency”, the report says, the bridge was opened to the public on October 26 without a fitness report or consultations with the Morbi municipality. “There was no restriction on the number of persons accessing the bridge at a given point in time and there was no restriction on the sale of tickets leading to unrestricted movement on the bridge. Also, there was insufficient security to prevent public from damaging the bridge,” as per the report.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the state government has suspended Sandipsinh Jhala, then chief officer of Morbi municipality, who signed the MoU with the private firm. A departmental inquiry is underway.

CCTV footage, site observations and investigations by the SIT revealed that the reason the bridge collapsed was the breaking of the main cable on the Darbargarh side of the bridge. “Considering all the safety aspects and design calculations, safe live load capacity of the bridge may be taken maxmium 75 to 80 persons at a time (if all 94 wires were in working condition). But as per site observation, 22 wires out of 49 wires were already broken due to corrosion, therefore safe live load capacity of the bridge may have been drastically reduced,” the report says.

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