Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014

After highway tragedy,blame game raises a stink

Written by Prasad Joshi | Posted: June 9, 2013 3:05 am

A day after the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) held the district administration responsible for letting a tragedy like the one in Shindewadi happen,the district collectorate seems to have woken from a slumber,but only to throw the ball back in NHAI’s court.

On Friday,NHAI maintained that waterlogging caused due to unabated,“illegal” construction going on along the hills around the Katraj tunnel had led the victims’ car to get stuck in the water. A woman and her 14-month0old daughter were swept away.

In response on Saturday,the district administration said the NHAI had failed to “clear landfills along the drains” on Pune-Satara Highway near the new Katraj tunnel. They said that was what caused the mishap.

Heavy downpour and waterlogging near Shindewadi,around 30 km from Pune,led to te four-wheeler getting stuck in the heavy current on Thursday evening. The woman’s husband and other relatives managed to push open the vehicle door and swim to safety.

According to sources,some landfills were allegedly created by a private firm and a hotel to use the stretch of land as an access road to a couple of “unauthorised” construction sites on the hillock.

On Saturday,Bhor taluka tehsildar Ram Chaubhe said the private firm had been served with a showcause notice in February,when the issue of landfills created by the firm was brought to notice of NHAI.

“The private firm had raised a couple of constructions without permission of the Town Planning Department. Anticipating an anti-encroachment drive by the government,the private firm obtained status quo on on unauthorised constructions in May. However,NHAI did not take any action in the matter of landfills,” he said,adding that the matter is sub judice.

He also added that the Bhor tehsil office would submit a report on the matter to District Collector Vikas Deshmukh by

Saturday.

In spite of repeated attempts by this paper,Deshmukh could not be reached for his comment.

Meanwhile,Kisan Rathod,the director of Saffron Developers,the private firm that has been caught in the row,told Newsline that their construction had nothing to do with the mishap. While admitting that they have a couple of unauthorised constructions on the hillock,he,denied that they had anything to do with Thursday’s drowning. He blamed the ongoing road-widening on Pune-Satara for the tragedy. “We have a couple of unauthorised constructions on the hillock,but the matter is sub judice. We have not created any access road by creating landfills. The water channels on a portion on the Pune-Satara Road got blocked due to debris from the road-widening work going on there,” he said.

On Friday,NHAI had squarely put the blame on the district collectorate for not taking any action against illegal constructions for over a year. “There are unauthorised constructions adjoining NHAI land on the hill side around the tunnel. In 2011,NHAI sent a detailed letter to the district collector,along with videos and photographs of these constructions,expressing concern over the dangers they pose to the tunnel. However,the constructions have not been stopped,” NHAI project director Rajesh Kaundal had said.

“The large amount continued…

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