Varanasi tragedy: Is the UP Bridge Corp. MD being made a scapegoat?

People gather to see the collapsed flyover site in Varanasi

Officers ignored the SOS by the Bridge Corporation to ensure diversions and the local police continued to allow traffic movement on the construction site and this finally proved fatal on Tuesday

In the first administrative fall out after the Varanasi tragedy where 18 people died when a pillar span on an under-construction flyover collapsed, the Uttar Pradesh government removed Managing Director of the Bridge Corporation Rajan Mittal from the post and appointed JK Srivastava as new MD with immediate effect.

The action was taken after high-level probe team led by Agriculture Production Commissioner (APC) Raj Pratap Singh found faults in the working of the Bridge Corporatin. The Committee submitted its report to the State Government on Thursday.

Deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who is also in-charge of Public Works Department tweeted on Thursday to say that  Rajan Mittal has been removed from the post of MD Bridge Corporation and JK Srivastava would replace him.

However, Mittal would continue as the  MD of Rajkiya Nirman Nigam.

Mittal has been under the scanner after the collapse of the flyover on Tuesday when he claimed that his department had written letter to the Varanasi police to divert the route passing under the under construction flyover. He even charged that the Varanasi police of not cooperated with the Bridge Corporation due to which the traffic continued even during the construction of the flyover.

Mittal was also removed from the post of the MD Bridge Corporation during the previous Samajwadi Party regime, when a portion of the bridge caved into river Yamuna in Fatepur district.

Bridge Corporation had put up iron barricades to stop vehicular movement through the construction site. But then the additional SP (Traffic) of Varanasi wrote on February 5, 2018, and again on February 18, asking the Bridge Corporation to immediately remove the barricades and allow traffic movement as the diversions would create chaos in the area

"We wrote several letters to the local administration requesting traffic diversion but they ignored our requests," a senior official of the UP Bridge Corporation said.

Sources revealed that the Bridge Corporation had put up iron barricades to stop vehicular movement through the construction site. But then the additional SP (Traffic) of Varanasi wrote on February 5, 2018, and again on February 18, asking the Bridge Corporation to immediately remove the barricades and allow traffic movement as the diversions would create chaos in the area.

On February 19, the ASP (Traffic) had even warned that if the passage was not cleared for vehicular movement, he would remove the cops from the site and the responsibility of traffic management would lie with the Bridge Corporation employees.

However, when the Bridge Corporation refused citing threat of a tragedy, the administration first warned its officials and later a criminal case was lodged against Chief Project Manager HC Tewari and others at Sigra police station in February. The SSP, the DM and the Divisional Commissioner of Varanasi knew about these developments.

However, all the warnings by the Bridge corporation officials were ignored.

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