THE FIRM, now issued a showcause notice in connection with the Malad Hill Reservoir wall collapse in Malad (East) that claimed 26 lives in Mumbai, had been blacklisted for its involvement in the multi-crore desilting scam of 2015, revealed documents access by The Indian Express.
Early Tuesday, after very heavy rain, the protection wall of the reservoir had collapsed on shanties killing 26, injuring over 130 and displacing hundreds. The search and rescue operation is underway as one continues to be missing.
Sources said the firm, Omkar Engineers and Contractors, was under the scanner for nullah desilting work at the time that it bagged a contract from BMC’s hydraulic engineering department for construction of the concrete wall around the Malad Hill reservoir. The firm is owned by Narendra Shah and Dhanpal Shah.
Documents available with The Indian Express shows that the work order for construction of 2.3-km RCC wall around Malad reservoir was given on December 4, 2015 and work had started on December 15, 2015. The contract cost for the project was Rs 21.07 crore and work was completed in December 2017.
Interestingly, a detailed inquiry report on nullah desilting was submitted by an inquiry team before then municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta in first week of September, 2015.
After the report found manipulation of records, Malad wall malpractices in nullah cleaning work and submission of bogus bills related to silt carrying, the firm was served showcause notice on January 19, 2016. The probe started in June, 2015 after there was flooding in city for two days and it was alleged that it happened since nullah cleaning was not done properly.
The final blacklisting and de-registration order was passed on October 17, 2016 for seven years. In all, the BMC had blacklisted 24 companies in nullah desilting scam of over Rs 100 crore.
On Thursday, The Indian Express had reported that civic body was expected to issue a notice to Omkar Engineers and Contractors to show cause why action should not be taken against them in connection with wall collapse incident. The wall is under three-year DLP (Defect Liability Period), which is going to end in 2020.
P-North (Malad) ward committee chairman and BJP corporator, Vinod Mishra, on Thursday wrote a letter to Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi demanding that a criminal case be registered against the contractor and officials for culpable homicide.
“The construction quality of wall was substandard and wall was in DLP. The collapsed portion was constructed in May 2016. There should be an FIR against the contractor and officials. Also, the BMC should provide alternative accommodation to residents affected because of incident,” Mishra stated.
One of the directors of Omkar Engineering and Contractors, Narendra Shah, defended the wall collapse incident. “It is a very unfortunate incident. There is no fault of ours, as it was purely a natural calamity, since there was very heavy rainfall because of which water was logged on the reservoir side. This caused a landslide-like situation along with water, which put tremendous pressure on the wall and it collapsed. There is no negligence of ours and and the construction quality of the wall is absolutely fine,” he told The Indian Express.
Asked about blacklisting, Shah said: “At the time when the contract of construction of wall was awarded, our firm was not blacklisted. I have filed a reply before BMC on this desilting issue and a hearing is on. Also, there is no connection between this wall collapse incident and blacklisting of our firm.”
Official from the hydraulic engineering department said a showcause notice has been issued to the contractor on Thursday.
Chief Engineer (hydraulic engineering) Ashok Tawadia said, “A showcause notice has been sent to contractor. We have asked them why there should be no action against them for this incident? A technical advisory committee consisting of two experts from VJTI and IIT-Mumbai and civic officials will be formed to check all technical details of incident.”
Asked about firm’s involvement desilting scam and whether the department was aware of it, Tawadia said, “I am not aware of this and will have to check the records of that time.”