Morbi Bridge collapse: Clock making firm with no prior experience was awarded contract for its maintenance
It has come to the fore that the tender for the maintenance and operation of the colonial era bridge was awarded to a private firm having zero experience in the field
As the death toll rose to more than 140 in the Morbi bridge collapse incident, it has come to the fore that the tender for the maintenance and operation of the colonial era bridge was awarded to a private firm having no experience in the field.
Sources said that Ahmedabad based Oreva Group was awarded a 15-years contract in March this year for the maintenance and operation of the bridge, despite having no-prior experience in maintaining/operating a bridge.
Oreva is famous for manufacturing “Ajanta” wall-clocks. Other than clocks, the company claims to have expertise in manufacturing e-bikes and electronics appliances.
“Company has accomplished several milestones and also became the “World’s Largest Clock Manufacturing Company” and later diversified into various verticals such as Lighting Products, E-Bike (Battery operated Bike), Home Appliances, Electrical Accessories and Electronic Products like Telephones, Calculators, LED TV,” reads the profile of the company.
It is noteworthy that nowhere on the website, the company has claimed to have expertise on maintaining/operating a bridge.
At the time of the signing of the contract, questions were raised by a few officials of the municipality, but the top officials awarded the contract to Oreva due to their political connections, said a source requesting anonymity.
Until March, the bridge was managed by the Morbi municipal corporation.
“The bridge is a property of the Morbi municipality, but we had handed it over to Oreva Group a few months ago for maintenance and operations for a duration of 15 years. However, the private firm threw the bridge open to visitors without notifying us and therefore, we couldn’t get a safety audit of the bridge conducted,” Sandeepsinh Zala, Chief Officer, Morbi Municipality was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
“The owner of the company is known for their close links with the BJP leaders. They are old BJP loyalists,” said a Gujarat Congress leader.
After the incident, the Morbi Nagar Palika, however, tried to abdicate responsibilities and put the blame on Oreva Group.
“Fitness certificate was not issued to the bridge” said Sandeep Singh, chief of the Morbi Nagar Palika, adding, “Only 20 to 25 people used to go in a batch on the bridge but because of their (Oreva Group’s) carelessness, the incident happened. A lot of people were sent together. About 400-500 people were on the bridge at the time of incident.”
Gujarat Congress spokesperson, Manish Doshi, reacted, “They are hand in glove. Why is the Municipality crying foul after the incident? Why didn’t they check before?”
Saying that the “top echelon of the Gujarat government is involved in the corruption” Doshi added, “Imagine! Contract for the maintenance of the bridge was given to a clock making company”.
Blaming CM, Bhupendrabhai Patel for “criminal negligence” Doshi said, “The CM holds the urban development ministry. He should resign as he knew that the clock making company has no experience in operating/maintaining such an infrastructure.”
When asked why the bridge was opened now, Doshi replied, “For political gains.”
“To fetch the votes in coming assembly elections by showing ‘development’, the BJP government allowed Oreva to open the bridge. Now they are blaming each other which is unfortunate,” said another Congress leader.
Meanwhile, an FIR has been filed under IPC sections 304 (criminal homicide due to negligence), 308 (culpable homicide, not amounting to murder), and 114 (deals with abettor’s presence while the crime was committed) against the collapse of the suspension bridge.
The case is lodged against the ‘agency’ responsible for the maintenance and management of the bridge.
Interestingly, nobody, neither municipality officials nor owners/management of the Oreva are named in the FIR. Authorities said that whoever was involved in the mishap would be booked.