In the most horrific incident which took the lives of approximately 135 people, the ongoing probe revealed that Oreva Group only spent 6% of the allotted money on the “cosmetic renovation” of 143-year-old Morbi Bridge in Gujarat. Reportedly, the company only spent Rs 12 lakh out of the allotted Rs 2 crore.
Morbi municipality chief officer Sandeepsinh Zala was suspended on Friday. Gujarat police has also filed a First Information Report under IPC Sections 304 and 308 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) in the bridge collapse tragedy.
The bridge was open for four days without the consent or knowledge of government authorities. “We have no idea whether the fitness certificate was issued to the company for reopening the bridge or not,” Zala said. He added that the authorities didn’t have information regarding what kind of material is being used by the Group.
The police has arrested nine people in connection to the tragedy so far. As the probe proceeds further, several lapses are coming to the light.
Oreva Group sub-contracted the renovation and gave the responsibility of fixing the bridge to Dhrangadhra-based firm DevPrakash Solutions. As per the probe, the firm also lacked the technical know-how required for such work.
Oreva Group which is a subsidiary of Ajanta was the operations and maintenance contractor for the Jhulta Pul or suspension bridge from 2008 to 2018 as per an agreement between Oreva group representative and Morbi municipality.
The Group chairman Jaysukh Patel approached Morbi Municipality to renew the same. Claiming the repair and renovation will cost around Rs 2 crore, Jaysukh proposed to cover the amount by raising the ticket fee from ₹15 and ₹10 (for adults and children, respectively) to ₹17 and 12 for the first year. However, the proposal was turned down in August 2020.
As per the agreement, it would take 8-12 months of time for it to be reopened to the public and Oreva Group is going to borne all the costs. Though it required 8-12 months, the bridge was reopened within seven months.