Trinamool Congress legislator Sudip Bandyopadhyay on Friday said he knew that there were design flaws in the flyover in Kolkata that collapsed, killing 24 people and injuring at least 90, and that he told the Mamata Banerjee government about it.
“There were flaws in the design of the flyover and it required remodeling. I informed the state government. Locals also raised objections to the project,” Bandyopadhyay, Lok Sabha MP and Trinamool’s chief whip, said at the disaster site.
“But by that time, 60% of the project work was completed and a lot of money was already sunk,” he added.
About 60-metre-long portion of the under-construction Vivekananda flyover in a congested market in central Kolkata collapsed after which the police registered a case against IVRCL under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) and 407 of the IPC and sealed the local office of the company engaged in flyover’s construction.
When asked why he didn’t press for the change of design or stop the work, Bandyopadhyay told reporters,
“Considering the financial burden, the remodeling was not done. Moreover, who am I. I am just a people’s representative. It’s the government of the people.”
Opposition parties in West Bengal are not letting the issue go after Thursday’s flyover collapse and have demanded that urban development minister Firhad Hakim be immediately arrested for the disaster as the state heads for assembly elections in three days.
“The state government is a murderer. It is becoming clear now after Sudip Bandyopadhyay’s statement. Is the cost of human lives less than the money that was spent?” state Congress president Adhir Chowdhury asked.
“It is strange that the cost of human lives was subordinate to the cost of funds to the ruling party. Earlier he did stop the work on quite a few occasions, but that was to ensure their pound of flesh and not out of any genuine concern for the people,” CPI-M Lok Sabha MP and politburo member Md Salim said reacting to Bandyopadhyay’s comments.
Kolkata goes to polls on April 21 and 30 and the Left–Congress alliance as well as the BJP will put the Trinamool under pressure.
“Locals raised this point a number of times earlier. It appears that there was some ulterior motive that guided the government to hasten the construction work,” BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha, who is also the candidate from Jorasanko assembly constituency where the disaster took place, said.
On Thursday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee had said that the project began during the Left regime and tenders were distributed before her party came to power.
Former urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya, however, countered her statement saying it is to be found out when was the section that collapsed was built.
The flyover was supposed to be one of the longest in the city and ease traffic woes by connecting the packed Central Avenue to Howrah Bridge. But it missed several deadlines as the implementing agency went bankrupt amid ballooning costs, land hurdles and frequent design changes.