Ahmedabad : It was a ‘Black Sunday’ at Gujarat’s Morbi on October 30.
The Rs 17 pass for a walk down the famous bridge turned out to be a death ticket for many.
Sources now allege that Oreva company, put in charge of the operation and maintenance of the bridge for 15 years, in their quest to make easy money triggered the tragedy by allowing the distribution of tickets without paying any heed to the handling capacity of the century-old suspension bridge.
These sources claimed that around 650 tickets for the bridge had been sold on Sunday when the bridge could only handle 150 to 200 people at a time.
“There was a huge crowd on the bridge even though it was never easy to walk on the bridge, since it was a Sunday. My family and I were on the bridge when some youths started shaking it intentionally. People couldn’t stand without any support. Since I had a feeling that it may prove dangerous, my family and I came back after covering some distance on the bridge,” said a lucky Vijay Goswami, who returned after walking halfway.
Another local resident wondered, “Ultimately any tourist destination in a town is the responsibility of the municipality. But why has no crime has been registered against the municipal officials in this accident?”
What has been done is that a First Information Report (FIR) has finally been registered against those responsible, but this has also led to questions being raised.
The police complaint has been registered under Sections 304, 308 and 114 against the bridge maintenance agency. But, the name of Oreva or its owner finds no mention. No crime has been registered against the responsible municipal officials, too.
Nine persons were arrested on Monday in connection with the collapse including include two managers, two ticket booking clerks of the Oreva Group that was managing the bridge, said Rajkot range IG Ashok Yadav.
Around 100 people are reportedly still missing.
The FIR has named “the agency responsible for maintaining the bridge” and the “management agency” as accused, without naming the company in charge of maintenance and repair or specific individuals, under IPC sections 304 and 308 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), said a B-division Morbi city police official.
Chief Officer of Morbi Municipality Sandeepsinh Jhala had on Sunday said that the bridge over the Machchhu River in Morbi, Gujarat, was given to Oreva company for operation and maintenance for 15 years.
In March this year, it was closed to the public for renovation.
It reopened on October 26 after renovation on the Gujarati New Year day. But the local municipality has not yet issued any fitness certificate. Some locals wondered how this was allowed to happen.
According to a document printed in local media, Jaysukh, the owner of Oreva, had inaugurated the bridge after its renovation.
When the Rajkot Range IG was asked about the absence of the name of the company in the FIR, he tried to duck the question and said instead “Action will be taken against whoever is found guilty. The SIT is formed and truth will come out in the investigation.”
Built by Morbi maharaja
The bridge that came down was a European-style structure built by the Maharaja of Morbi Waghji Thakor, who was awarded “Night commander of the state of India” by Queen Victoria 125 years ago. It was 765 ft long, 4.6 ft wide and 60 ft above the ground.
Waghji Thakor ruled Morbi till 1922. He decided to construct the bridge, an artistic and technological marvel of that period, to connect Darbargadh Palace with Nazarbag Palace (the residences of the then royalty).