‘Ajanta’s focus was on contract, not repairs’

Ahmedabad Mirror | 6 days ago | 25-11-2022 | 06:00 am

‘Ajanta’s focus was on contract, not repairs’

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday observed that the Morbi municipality ignored the apprehension raised by the Ajanta (Oreva) group almost a year ago about the critical condition of the suspension bridge that ultimately collapsed on October 30 and claimed 135 lives.The court also took unfavourable note of the fact that the communication between the Ajanta group and the Morbi municipality in December 2021 centred on “retention of the contract” and “pricing of tickets” rather than the urgency to repair the bridge.On the issue of what led to the collapse of the bridge, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi told the court, “Wire rods supporting the bridge were cut and welded while the wooden sleepers on the floor were replaced. This could have compromised the integrity of the bridge. We are awaiting Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), Special Investigation Team (SIT) and Gujarat Engineering Research Institute (GERI) reports which can shed more light on the issue.”When Chief Justice Aravind Kumar asked the government counsel about why the Morbi municipality allowed Ajanta to continue with the contract beyond 2017, Trivedi couldn’t give a satisfactory reply. HC noted that the Morbi municipality entered a new contract with Ajanta only on March 8 this year and that too without approval of its general body.Plaint against Ajanta after SIT, FSL reports​​​​​​​When the state government informed the court that FSL and SIT reports were awaited before filing of an FIR in the case, advocate K R Koshti, one of the parties in the suo motu petition, sought HC intervention in filing of the FIR and naming Ajanta promoters as accused. The court suggested compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the kin of the deceased, instead of Rs 4 lakh announced by the state.Survey of all similar bridgesThe HC directed the state government to conduct a survey of similar bridges in the state to find out their condition and undertake repair works, if necessary. The court asked the authority to submit its report within ten days.Why no action against Morbi municipalityOn two critical questions — why the Morbi municipality was not superseded despite its inefficiency and why no action was taken against its Chief Officer Sandipsinh Zala — the state government said it was awaiting SIT and FSL reports. HC asked SIT to submit its report soon so that action could be taken against the guilty.

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