After Varanasi flyover collapse, blame game begins

Lucknow: As the families grieve the death of their kin in the Varanasi flyover collapse earlier this week, the local administration and the work agency are busy playing a blame game.

The district police has lodged an FIR against officials of the Uttar Pradesh State Bridge Corporation Ltd, a government-run entity carrying out the construction of the flyover in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s parliamentary constituency, stating the agency did not follow safety measures.

Varanasi Senior Superintendent of Police RK Bharadwaj said that during an inspection of the construction site, it came to the fore that the builders were not following safety measures such as putting up proper barricades and laying out a service lane and an FIR was registered against corporation officials in February.

Rajan Mittal, who was removed as corporation MD on Thursday, however, refuted the charges and asserted he was is in possession of five letters sent to the SP, Traffic, between November 2017 and March 2018 for regulating traffic and removing encroachments from the area.

“Besides, our concern for the traffic had been expressed continuously in the meetings with the local administration and can be seen in the minutes of these meetings,” he told PTI before he was removed from the post.

“In fact, the traffic should not have been allowed in the area in the first place and all officials of the district were aware of not only traffic movement but also jams,” he said, adding that the project was continuously being monitored at every level as the agency was working round-the-clock to meet deadlines.

A portion of the under-construction flyover near the railway station in Varanasi collapsed on Tuesday killing at least 18 people, officials had said.

Some vehicles, including a bus, were crushed in the collapse, they said.

On how the accident happened, Mittal said that prima facie it seemed like “bearing failure” which could have suffered damage in the massive dust storm a couple of days ago. “It should have been checked at the local level after the storm.”

The police have said the agency carrying out the construction work is supposed to deploy its own staff for traffic regulation and if they cannot do this they need to request the police for providing these services.

Mittal stressed the agency staff were deployed during the casting work till February and claimed that he was not aware as to when and on whose orders they were removed.

After the collapse, police booked officials of UP Bridge Corporation for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, attempt to commit culpable homicide and sections of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act at the Sigra police station in Varanasi against supervising officials, contractors and staff involved in the construction of the flyover.

The MD said that after the collapse, he ordered for sending 11 teams in all the zones to check each and every bridge, flyover and road overbridge (ROB) on the safety and quality parameters and give their reports in five days.

The general secretary of the UP Engineers Association, SS Niranjan said that all aspects of the tragedy, including possible administrative and police lapses, should also been looked into before arriving at any conclusion and fixing responsibility.

“Unlike other cases, when engineering officials are pulled up even before inquiry, in this case all aspects into the case should be taken into account and decisions should be taken which could provide justice to those who lost their lives,” he pointed out.