Engineers working on the flyover that collapsed on Thursday said the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) ignored requests to cordon off the area around the project and instead pressurised the company to complete work before the assembly elections.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, two engineers who went into hiding since the tragedy said they were following a design that was approved by Jadavpur University engineering experts and were using materials and technology that were double checked by the KMDA at every stage. They further emphasised that the development authority officials oversaw day-to-day work and were even present at the spot on Thursday.
“We get the iron plates from SAIL (Steel Authority of India), which are then checked by KMDA in its labs and KMDA-approved labs. KMDA checks in each and every step like fabrication, erection, civil work like rod binding and ultimately concretisation. The flyover collapsed during concretisation. The plan was drawn by another company and approved by experts of Jadavpur University,” said one of the two engineers.
The implication of their statements is clear: If IVRCL is to be blamed, KMDA, the inspection agency and the Jadavpur University experts are equally responsible for the collapse that killed 24 people and trapped dozens more under the debris.
The engineers further alleged that the KMDA pressurised the construction company to complete the project before the assembly elections, a task that was impossible.
“Since last November, they put tremendous pressure on us to complete the flyover by the beginning of this year, which we said was impossible. We are still trying to figure out how this happened. The central pier collapsed which never happens,” said another engineer who has been working on the project for the past five years. The IVRCL employee took refuge at a relative’s home after tragedy struck.
The engineers said KMDA was clearly informed that at the current pace of working only night shifts, the project would be done by January 2017. They could speed it up by working double shifts, but would still be done only by October-November this year. However, the company still faced pressure to meet the election deadline.
“We asked KMDA bosses to ensure the entire stretch was cordoned off and all vehicles diverted to facilitate round the clock work. We shot over a dozen letters to KMDA to ask police to cordon off the area while we work. KMDA ignored our warnings. Usually the construction work was undertaken between midnight and 4 am keeping in view the congested traffic in the area. But they didn’t cordon the area and we had to work at daytime too,” said the engineer who oversaw work at the site.
After the collapse occurred, IVRCL employees locked up the site office on Beadon Street and fled. Police lodged an FIR against the company, following which employees fled their homes as well. Cutting off communications with most people, they now wait for the worst to blow over. However, it could be a long while as the disaster has turned into a political slugfest with just two days to go for the assembly elections to begin.