Bhubaneswar: The Bomikhal flyover collapse grabbed the headlines in September last year, triggering political hue and cry and administrative probes, but not many could possibly have imagined that another tragedy would befall within months. In the process Bhubaneswar has gained the ignominy of being, perhaps, the only state capital to witness such an incident twice involving the same construction.
In 2017, a businessman died and several others were injured. Within a few days of the incident, the chief of Panda Infra, engaged in construction of the flyover, Pratap Panda was arrested. Subsequently, he obtained bail and continued constructing the flyover.
An engineer of the Works Department Bansidhar Praharaj was also arrested and a case was registered against Pratap Panda, Sujata Panda and Santosh Panda – all directors of Panda Infra.
What makes the incidents unacceptable, is the reason for the collapse. Former Works Secretary N K Rath said it is not the flyover but the vertical walls along the approach road to the flyover which collapsed this time. He attributed it to fault in the centering support. “It is the responsibility of engineers at the work site to check centering, staging and strutting, which support fresh concrete to attain its strength and structure. This should be done religiously to prevent recurrence of such mishaps,” he told Odisha Bytes.
Blaming engineers for the tragic incident, the All Odisha Contractors’ Association demanded action against them. “The state government should initiate action against the engineers who were supervising the flyover construction. They should be taken to task for gross dereliction of duty. These engineers are not visiting the work site. They only know how to collect percentage from the contractors. Each junior engineer earns over lakhs of rupees in a month. There is no work without percentage,” the association’s president Pravat Das said.
Leader of opposition, Narasingha Mishra, blamed it on rampant corruption and inefficiency in a tweet.
#Bomikhal bridge collapse yet again speaks volumes of the malaise with the government. Rampant corruption & inefficiency are the hallmark of this government.
— Narasingha Mishra (@NarasinghMishra) May 3, 2018
Taking a dig at the government’s apathy and insensitivity of other parties, activist Namrata Chadda said on the one hand government celebrates labour day and on the other gifts him death. “What annoys me even more is the fact that other political leaders take it as an opportunity to find fault in the government without really caring about the poorest of the poor who lost his life,” she said.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh for the family of Ajay Bhumji who lost his life on Thursday evening. Chadda, however, said that this won’t help. “They work under life-threatening conditions with no head gears or safety. They must be insured because compensating with a few lakhs will not solve the problem. Is life really that invaluable?” she questioned.
She demanded life insurance for labourers on site and a check on all the materials being used. She said Rasulgarh is a congested place with industrial estates, housing colonies, a new shopping mall under construction and a flyover only adds to the pressure in that area. “I wonder how things have been planned. Are the BDA and other designers so dumb?” she said.
She also hoped that this time the culprits are taken to task and do not get bail. “Last time they escaped and came back to the business. I really wonder why the civil society is so quiet about it. Why aren’t there any questions and protests against this?” she added.