Ghatkopar billboard was installed on weak foundation, reveals VJTI report | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

Ghatkopar billboard was installed on weak foundation, reveals VJTI report

ByManish K Pathak
Jun 06, 2024 08:45 AM IST

17 killed, 74 were injured in Ghatkopar billboard collapse due to weak foundation, says the report, adding that the structure couldn't withstand wind speeds

MUMBAI: A massive billboard that collapsed on May 13 in Ghatkopar, in which 17 people were killed and 74 were injured, was installed on an inadequate and weak foundation, according to a report submitted by Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute (VJTI) to the crime branch.

Rescue and relief work underway near the site of the hoarding collapse at Ghatkopar(PTI)
Rescue and relief work underway near the site of the hoarding collapse at Ghatkopar(PTI)

VJTI, which had collected samples of the foundation as well as the pilling of the structure, submitted its interim report to the police on Wednesday. The report also made an observation that while any hoarding structure in the city should ideally be able to withstand wind speeds of 44 metres per second or 158km per hour, the Ghatkopar billboard could only withstand one-fourth of that wind speed.

The team from VJTI visited the hoarding collapse site in Ghatkopar on May 25 and collected samples. The interim report was prepared on a priority basis and submitted. The detailed report will be submitted later by VJTI, added the officer.

The Mumbai crime branch’s Special Investigation Team (SIT) is probing the hoarding collapse incident in which 17 persons lost their lives. As of now, the SIT has arrested two accused in the case – Bhavesh Bhinde, proprietor of Ego Media Pvt Ltd, which owned the ill-fated hoarding and Manoj Ramkrishna Sanghu, a BMC-approved engineer who allegedly gave the stability certificate for 120x140 feet hoarding on April 24, 2023, despite knowing that it was bigger than the maximum size permitted by BMC. Bhinde is in judicial custody while Sanghu’s police custody ended on June 5 and he was produced in the court and sent into judicial custody, added the official.

The third suspect Janhavi Marathe, who was Ego Media’s director till November 2023, is still untraceable. Her appeal for anticipatory bail was also rejected by the sessions court. A police team had visited her residence for an inquiry but she was not present at home, said a police official.

The civic engineer, Sunil Dalvi, was posted in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) N-ward from November 2021 to April 2024, had issued a notice to the Government Railway Police (GRP) for erecting the illegal, oversized hoarding at Ghatkopar that collapsed on May 13 but withdrawn it later was questioned on Monday by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Mumbai police’s crime branch. He was in constant touch during this period with Bhavesh Bhinde so police have been scrutinising his call data records and WhatsApp chats with Bhinde spanning the past year to ascertain their evidentiary value, the sources added.

Dalvi was aware that the land did not belong to the Railways and civic laws were applicable, he should not have withdrawn the notice. He was in charge of the hoarding department in N-ward and it was his responsibility to take legal action against the illegal hoarding, said a crime branch officer.

Ego Media had applied for permission to erect three more hoardings on the same plot in Ghatkopar in 2020. The permission was granted by the GRP, which owns the land, with the size of hoardings stipulated at 40x40 feet. In July 2022, Bhinde allegedly approached GRP commissioner Quaiser Khalid to increase the size of the hoardings to 80x80 feet and the length of the tenures from 10 to 30 years. Bhinde also sought permission for a fourth hoarding for which a tender was not issued. Despite this, Khalid allegedly approved the application in December 2022 before handing over the charge to his successor, Ravindra Shisve. The fourth hoarding’s initial size was 120x70 feet before it was increased to 140x120 feet, said another officer. According to the police, Ego Media was paying 13 lakh rent per month for the three hoardings (measuring 80x80 feet each) and 11 lakh per month for the fourth hoarding, which collapsed on May 13.

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