Almost three months after the bridge collapse in Gujarat's Morbi that killed 135 people, the police have issued an arrest warrant against the promoter of Oreva Group and Ajanta Manufacturing Limited's managing director Jaysukh Patel. Patel has been missing since the incident and has been named as an accused in the soon-to-be-filed charge sheet in the case.
For reasons that have since come into question, Oreva Group, a company known for making wall clocks under the Ajanta brand, had been awarded the contract for renovation, operation and maintenance of the 100-year-old suspension bridge over the Machchhu River. It collapsed on October 30, four days after it reopened.
The BJP government in Gujarat also faced accusations of shielding the politically influential industrialist ahead of the recently held assembly elections, which the party swept. The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report on the incident revealed that rusty cables, broken anchor pins, and loose bolts were among the lapses that were not addressed during the renovation of the bridge. The report also stated that Oreva Group did not hire any expert agency to assess the load-bearing capacity of the bridge before opening it to the public.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the government to investigate the matter cited several lapses on the part of Oreva Group in repairs, maintenance and operation of the bridge, including no restriction put on the number of persons accessing the bridge at a given point in time and no restriction on the sale of tickets, leading to unrestricted movement on the bridge.
So far, nine people have been arrested in the case, including the subcontractors, daily wage labourers who worked as ticket clerks, and security guards. Patel had filed an anticipatory bail plea in the sessions court on January 16th, fearing arrest in the case. The hearing for the bail application has been adjourned till February 1st.
According to the police case over the collapse, at least 250 to 300 people were present on the bridge when it collapsed after one of the cables snapped. The state government has asked the local municipality to explain why it should not be dissolved for failing to discharge its duties that led to the tragedy.