The contractor in charge of building a Bhubaneswar flyover that has now caved in twice in nine months cannot be fired because the contract does not hold him accountable for deaths at the site, state public works department officials told The Sunday Express.
A worker, Ajay Gumit, was killed and another seriously injured after a portion of the 880-metre flyover collapsed on Thursday. A 41-year-old man had died and 11, including the man’s eight-year-old daughter, were injured after a concrete slab of the same flyover in Bhubaneswar’s Bomikhal area came down in September last year.
Odisha Public Works Department (OPWD) officials, however, said they “cannot revoke the licence of the contractor and issue a fresh tender because the existing contract does not include accident or death of workers or public as a parameter for revoking the contract”.
A senior official added that “It does not make sense to revoke the contract as this particular project will be over by next month.” Also, the official said, “If we revoke licences for such accidents, contractors can drag us to court.”
According to OPWD officials, Thursday’s accident happened due to “carelessness of the workers”, and “the contractor should have sensitised them, but they made certain mistakes”.
Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, who visited the site on Saturday, said the incident showed “inefficient and paralysed governance in the state”. The BJP has demanded a CBI probe into the incident. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Narasingha Mishra of the Congress, attributed the accident to “rampant corruption and inefficiency”.
In October, a probe by a team appointed by the state government found violations of the safety protocol during construction. Three engineers were chargesheeted for negligence under the Odisha Public Servant Conduct Rules, and construction contractor Panda Infra Projects (India) Pvt Ltd was blacklisted by the state government. However, the company was allowed to complete the project.
According to officials, “blacklisting means the company will not be allowed to participate in bids for new projects, but it has to complete the flyover because no one else will”.
Panda Infra managing director Pratap Panda was arrested for the second time after Thursday’s incident, and charged under relevant IPC sections, including Section 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder). On Friday, CM Naveen Patnaik ordered a probe into the incident, and announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh to kin of the deceased.