Over two months after a giant hoarding at Shahir Amar Shaikh chowk in Pune collapsed on the road and killed four persons, the inquiry into the incident is still not over, reveals Central Railway’s response to a Right To Information (RTI) query filed by The Indian Express.
In the wake of the accident, railway authorities had promised to conduct a speedy inquiry “within 15 days” and ensure that “no one who is responsible for the mishap will be spared”. But, 70 days after the incident, an internal ‘high-level committee’ established to probe it has failed to come out with the report, raising questions about Central Railway’s intent to punish those responsible for the fatal accident.
On the afternoon of October 5, a 40-feet-tall and 40-feet-wide metal structure, part of a hoarding installed on Railway land, had collapsed on the road, crushing vehicles and motorists who were waiting for the red light to turn green. Four persons had died in the incident while 11 others had sustained serious injuries.
No policy in place to monitor installation, removal of hoardings
The mishap on October 5 was a result of several alleged irregularities and absence of specific policies to monitor the installation and removal of commercial hoardings on railway properties. The Pune Municipal Corporation has said these hoardings are illegal as they do not follow the size specifications of the state’s policy on hoardings. The Central Railway has claimed that the state government’s rules pertaining to hoarding size do not apply to it, but also admitted that it does not have a hoarding policy of its own. It will be interesting to see if the probe panel also looks into these issues in its report.
Responding to a RTI query seeking information about the probe report and the delay in submitting it, Senior Divisional Safety Officer of Central railway’s Pune Division, R V Nagrale, stated that revealing details of the inquiry will affect the investigation which, he said, was still ongoing.
“The investigation of the accident under process to avoid impediment in the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of the offenders the information sought by you cannot be furnished in accordance with Section 8.1 9h of RTI Act. As on date, the inquiry is till under process and all the documents regarding inquiry proceedings are with Deputy Chief Engineer (Bridge-I) who is convenor of the inquiry committee,” stated Nagrale. Central Railway had announced a four-member inquiry panel to probe the incident. The panel comprised A K Singh, deputy chief engineer (bridge); Shiv Kumar, deputy chief safety officer (engineering); K V Thomas, deputy chief commercial manager/claims (all are from Mumbai Zonal Office) and D Vikas, senior divisional security commissioner from Pune.
About a month after the incident, Central Railway had said the probe was getting delayed as two staffers, junior engineer Sanjay Vishnudev Singh (42) and blacksmith Pandurang Nivrutti Vanare (57), who were arrested after the mishap, were under judicial custody and the probe panel couldn’t record their statements, which were vital for the report.
Singh and Vanare were granted bail by the Bombay High Court and released in the first week of November. Their statements, however, were recorded by the probe panel on December 4, almost a month after their release.