Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh: The Varanasi district magistrate has ordered an inquiry into the collapse of an under-construction flyover that claimed 18 lives on Tuesday. District Magistrate Yogeshwar Ram Mishra sought a report in three days and named Upper District Magistrate Manoj Kumar Rai as the investigating officer.
The government agency building the flyover submitted its internal report. Speaking with Firstpost, Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation (UPSBC) project manager KR Sudan — who has been suspended over the incident — confirmed this development but said he could not reveal the contents of the report. Sudan insisted nothing was wrong with the casting of the support beam (called girder) but said there could be issues with its interlocking.
Sudan also dismissed the allegation that it was a pre-cast support beam, and said its casting was done on the pillar in February. "No one can raise a finger on the quality of construction as the 24-foot-long beam, which fell on the public, was intact even after falling from a height of six metres", he added. "The only possible thing the department officers could think, as of now, is the interlocking and the length of the girder".
Another UPSBC official, requesting anonymity, seconded the assessment. "Soon after the accident, the engineers who were present on the day of casting of this girder were summoned by the department and were asked to show the drawing, footage and other available proof. In the first instance, we could see a problem with the length, position and interlocking [fabrication] of the girder. But this is yet not the final conclusion and the matter is still being investigated", he said.
The officer said timely inspection of the work was being done and no issue was found even in the last inspection on 3 March. According to RK Yadav, a former executive engineer with the Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department in Lucknow head office, the accident must have occurred owing to carelessness of the officers who were there when the girder casting was underway.
"It seems like the iron cast on which the girder rests was placed wrongly, because of which the girder came down", he said, refuting allegations of corruption or any other angle in connection with the accident. He said there could be other reasons too and people should wait for the final investigation report before arriving at a conclusion.
'Under pressure to finish construction, but did not succumb'
This flyover was commissioned in the first quarter of 2015 and its construction started in October 2015. Sudan said there was pressure on the UPSBC to finish the construction of the flyover as, allegedly, a senior BJP leader (rumoured to be Prime Minister Narendra Modi) was to inaugurate it. The UPSBC official said the deadline was December 2018 but there indeed was pressure on the department to get it ready by October for inauguration. The official added that the department did not succumb to the pressure and was doing quality work.
Meanwhile, an FIR has been registered against UPSBC officials for culpable homicide not amounting to murder at the order of commissioner, Varanasi Range, Deepak Agarwal.
Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya suspended four officials on Tuesday, including chief project manager HC Tiwari, project manager Sudan, assistant engineer Rajesh Singh and engineer Lal Chand. On Tuesday night, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath rushed to Varanasi to take stock of the situation.
"We have directed the administration and everyone else to help the victims in all possible ways. I have also formed a three-member team under the chairmanship of commissioner, agriculture produce, and I assure everyone that no culprit will be spared", Adityanath said.
On Wednesday, the managing director of the UPSBC announced that all the employees of the corporation would donate one day's pay to the kin of those who died in the accident and the injured. The engineers and employees unanimously took this decision, the managing director said.
Saurabh Sharma is a Lucknow-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.
Updated Date: May 16, 2018 18:51 PM