The director of an audit firm, the first to be arrested after the collapse of the CSMT foot overbridge (FOB), has again filed a plea for bail. In his application, he claimed that “improper” BMC repairs had led to the “gradual failure” of the FOB.
Seven people were killed and 33 injured when the FOB collapsed on March 14. Apart from Neeraj Desai, the audit firm director, the police have also arrested two engineers and a former chief engineer of the bridges department.
Desai claimed that repairs carried out under the instructions of the Mumbai Municipal Commissioner, which involved the laying of heavy granite stones on the FOB, led to its collapse. He also claimed that officials had completed the refurbishment of the bridge in 2017 without checking its load-carrying capacity.
The audit firm’s director said that his company had carried out inventory work and the structural audit and that the observations were made in a report dated December 26, 2016 — two years and three months before the collapse. He claimed that an audit conducted by his company was only valid for six months and that significant damage due to wear and tear intensified due to repair activity “which was done improperly”.
“The office of MCGM (civic body) was also independently and distinctly repairing, refurbishing and maintaining the FOB after the audit without the knowledge of the applicant (Desai)… The structural repair work was carried out on the said FOB by MCGM A ward after the structural audit through a third-party contractor Vetrag Enterprises, wherein heavy granite slabs were laid on the bridge, increasing the load on the bridge,” read Desai’s bail plea. He said in such an event, a new audit report is required as the earlier one becomes invalid.
Public Prosecutor Mangesh Arote said a reply is yet to be filed. The court will thereafter hear arguments.
Bridges dept engineers’ ‘work-to-rule’ agitation
Engineers from the bridges department on Monday carried out a “work-to-rule” agitation against the arrest of the department’s former chief engineer, by clocking exactly nine working hours as mandated by the rules.
The agitation will continue on Tuesday, said Sainath Rajadhyaksha of the municipal engineers’ union, while a sit-in protest has been planned at Azad Maidan on Wednesday.
Municipal Commissioner Pravin Pardeshi, who took charge on Monday, said, “We held a meeting with engineers and explained to them that all actions are as per rules and there will be no injustice. This (action against some civic engineers) should also work as a wake-up call to all engineers that routine work, inspection, everything should be done diligently and responsibly.”
The commissioner has also scheduled a meeting with engineers on Tuesday morning.
The engineers have been protesting since the arrest of former chief engineer SO Kori in connection with the CSMT foot overbridge collapse, with 42 of them taking mass leave. The agitation could affect the re-audit of bridges across the city. The protesters had said the arrest of a senior official would lower the morale of others who are overburdened and did their job with honesty.