A Year After Gujarat Bridge Tragedy, Victims' Families Still Seek Justice

A person whose son and nephew were killed in the incident claimed there was no crowd management at the bridge, which collapsed on October 30 last year, claiming 135 lives including 50 children.

A Year After Gujarat Bridge Tragedy, Victims' Families Still Seek Justice

The SIT also found several design faults in the bridge post-renovation works.

Ahmedabad:

A number of people who lost their family members in the Morbi bridge collapse one year ago gathered near the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on Monday demanding "justice" for the victims and the harshest punishment for those responsible for the tragedy.

Apart from the 10 persons arrested so far, those found guilty of negligence in the Special Investigation Team (SIT) report should also be arrested and punished, said a man who lost his 10-year-old daughter in the tragedy.

A person whose son and nephew were killed in the incident claimed there was no crowd management at the bridge, which collapsed on October 30 last year, claiming 135 lives including 50 children.

A woman, who lost her son in the tragedy, said she had raised him by working as a domestic help and no amount of compensation can heal her wounds.

The incident had taken place on the British-era suspension bridge on the Machchhu river when hundreds of people were allowed to gather on the structure at the same time.

Under the banner of 'Tragedy Victim Association - Morbi', around 40 people who have lost their dear ones, sat for nearly three hours at a place opposite the Sabarmati Ashram on Monday morning to pay homage to the men, women and children who died.

According to the president of the association, Narendra Parmar, the families of the victims had originally planned to hold 'Shraddhanjali Yatra', a march from the Sabarmati Ashram till the residence of chief minister in Gandhinagar, on the occasion of one year of the bridge tragedy.

However, since authorities did not give permission to hold such a yatra, the association organised a 'Shraddhanjali Sabha', a tribute meet here on the Ashram road in the morning, Parmar, whose 10-year-old daughter was among the 135 people killed in the tragedy, told PTI.

"Through this meet, we all demand a speedy trial and maximum punishment for the culprits. Apart from the persons arrested so far, those found guilty of negligence by the SIT in its report must also be arrested and tried (in court) so that others think twice before indulging in such negligence," he said.

As per the official figures presented in the Gujarat High Court, out of the total 20 children who became orphans due to the tragedy, 13 had lost one parent while seven lost both their parents.

According to Parmar, majority of the victims belonged either to the Scheduled Caste (SC) or Muslim communities.

Shabana Pathan, a widow who lost her 19-year-old son Alfaz Khan in the bridge tragedy, has taken a vow to remain barefoot until she gets "justice".

"I firmly believe that justice has not been served yet," she told PTI.

The trial (in the court case pertaining to the incident) keeps dragging on. Either the public prosecutor gets changed, or the judge is transferred, Pathan claimed.

"I had raised my son by working as a maid for 14 families. No amount of compensation can heal my wounds. If courts can give capital punishment for one murder, then this is the case of 135 murders. I will not wear footwear until I get justice," said the teary-eyed woman.

Hemida Iqbal, who lost her 18-year-old son Nisar in the tragedy, also demanded 'justice' for him.

The other aggrieved families included Manoj Dafda who lost his two sons aged 8 and 11. Another person, Ganpat Rathod, lost his son Vijay and nephew Jagdish, both aged 19.

"Both Vijay and Jagdish went on the bridge to enjoy their Diwali vacation. There was absolutely no crowd management by the company. People were stuffed like goats on that bridge. We want the harshest punishment for those responsible for this tragedy," said Rathod while holding a photo of his late son and nephew.

Notably, the state-government appointed SIT, in its interim and final reports submitted to the high court, had found several lapses in repairs, maintenance and operation of the bridge by the Oreva Group (Ajanta Manufacturing Limited), whose Managing Director Jaysukh Patel is the main accused in this case and is already behind bars.

Apart from Patel, two managers of his firm and two sub-contractors who had repaired the bridge are also behind bars, while three security guards and two ticket-booking clerks were granted bail by the high court some months back.

All the 10 accused, including Jaysukh Patel, have been charged under Indian Penal Code sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide), 336 (act which endangers human life), 337 (causing hurt to any person by doing any rash or negligent act) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by doing rash or negligent act).

The SIT's final report submitted before the Gujarat High Court two weeks ago stated that there were "serious operational and technical lapses" on part of the Oreva company's management, which led to the bridge collapse.

The lackadaisical approach on part of the management of Oreva company resulting in "one of the most severe and tragic human calamities" cannot be countenanced, the SIT said.

"For this, prima facie, the whole management of the company, including its managing director and two managers appear to be responsible," it said.

The SIT also found several design faults in the bridge post-renovation works, contributing to its collapse.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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