Morbi bridge collapse: Renovation company booked for ‘callous approach’; 9 held

Updated on Nov 01, 2022 04:34 AM IST

The police on Monday arrested nine persons, including four officials of Oreva group, the company that renovated the bridge and opened it for public on October 26 days, four days before it collapsed on Sunday.

Rescuers search for survivors after a suspension bridge collapsed in Morbi town in Gujarat on Sunday. (REUTERS)
Rescuers search for survivors after a suspension bridge collapsed in Morbi town in Gujarat on Sunday. (REUTERS)
By, Morbi

The police on Monday arrested nine persons, including four officials of Oreva group, the company that renovated the bridge and opened it for public on October 26 days, four days before it collapsed on Sunday.

Among those arrested are two ticket clerks and two managers from Oreva group, said Ashok Yadav, IG Rajkot Range at a press conference at Morbi.

134 people died and about 66 people were injured due to the collapse of the suspension bridge over the Morbi Macchu river on Sunday.

The state government has constituted a five-member committee to probe the bridge collapse incident.

Earlier in the day, Gujarat police filed an FIR under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 308 (attempt to commit culpable homicide) of Indian Penal Code in the matter.

Also read: Some youngsters shook Morbi bridge intentionally: Visitor recounts experience

The Morbi municipality in March this year engaged private firm, Oreva Group, for the maintenance, operation and security of the bridge for the next 15 years.

Chief officer of the municipality Sandeep Sinh Jhala said the bridge was reopened without informing the authorities.

“We have no idea whether the fitness certificate was issued to the company for re-opening the bridge or not,” Sandeep Sinh Jhala, chief officer for Morbi municipality said on Saturday. Jhala also said authorities have no information on the kind of material used during the renovation.

While the FIR says that more than 250-300 people were on the suspension footbridge at the time of the accident, it does not raise the issue of overcapacity, a common complaint of the survivors and the relatives of the victims who lost their lives.

Oreva was charging 17 for adults and 12 for those under the age of 12 to enter the bridge, but at least some eyewitnesses say there may have been a significant number of people who got onto the bridge without tickets.

A press statement issued by Sabarmati Riverfront Development Corp Ltd, an Ahmedabad civic body undertaking, on Monday stated that the Atal Bridge in Ahmedabad that was recently inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi can take a capacity of more than 12,000 visitors at any given time. “Keeping in view the ‘Jhulta Pol’ Morbi collapse incident, it has been decided as a precautionary measure to limit the number of visitors to 3,000 per hour,” it said.

A Morbi municipality official said that previously, people were allowed onto the bridge only in small groups.

Jaysukh Patel, managing director of Oreva group did not respond to calls made on his mobile phone. On October 26, he had said that the bridge will not need any repair for next eight to ten years.

Those arrested on Monday also include two contractors Prakash Parmar and Devang Parmar who were hired to repair the bridge by Oreva group.

Rajkot Range Inspector General of Police, Ashok Yadav said that preliminary investigations showed structural and technical flaws including certification and maintenance issues were responsible for the mishap.

The Oreva Group is the flagship company for Ajanta , the world’s biggest wall clock manufacturer. The group’s brands—Ajanta, Orpat and Oreva—are sold in over 40 countries.

Also read: ‘Three sounds and then…’: Morbi bridge collapse survivor recounts horror

The founder of Oreva group Odhavji Raghavji Patel who died in October 2012 at the age of 87 began his journey as an entrepreneur from Morbi in 1971, setting up a small partnership firm, Ajanta Transistor Clock Manufacturing Co. He ran the business from a rented premise, manufacturing magnetic clocks with coil. In 1974, newer models of clocks were being introduced globally. In the mid-1980s, Patel moved to quartz technology realizing it would replace mechanical clocks . Ajanta clocks were simple and provided an accuracy that was earlier available only on large, expensive pendulum clocks. They did not require much maintenance and were smaller in size. The quartz clocks were an instant success and encouraged the group to diversify.

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