Prakash Sawant-Desai, the sole survivor of the Dapoli mishap, has been sent on forced leave by authorities of the Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth. The university took the decision after a group of about 250 people, including relatives of those who died in the accident near Poladpur, came to the university headquarters on Tuesday, demanding that Sawant-Desai be sacked.
On July 28, a bus carrying 31 passengers had fallen into an 800-feet deep gorge while crossing the Ambenali Ghat on the Poladpur-Mahabaleshwar Road. Thirty of the passengers were employees of the Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, located in Dapoli.
Sawant-Desai was the only person who managed to survive the accident. He said he was sitting in the driver’s cabin, on the left-hand side seat, when the bus slipped on the muddy road and fell into the gorge. He said that as the windshield of the bus had broken due to the impact of the accident, he reached out for the branches of a tree through the damaged glass, and managed to hold on to them while the bus fell into the valley.
However, relatives of some of the victims, all of whom were Desai’s colleague at the university’s non-teaching wing, have expressed their doubts about the version of events given by Desai. They have alleged that Sawant-Desai was driving the bus when the accident took place and shared their doubts with police, They have also shot off a letter to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, demanding an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the accident.
Raigad Police, however, said they have found no evidence that Sawant-Desai was driving the bus. “We have found no evidence that Sawant-Desai was driving the bus,” Raigad Superintendent of Police Anil Paraskar told The Indian Express.
Asked whether it meant that police have absolved him of the charges levelled by the victims’ relatives, Paraskar said Sawant-Desai was never under suspicion. “But after the relatives of some victims made the allegations, we investigated the matter. We found that those who saw him, right before the vehicle fell down the gorge, did not corroborate allegations that Sawant-Desai was driving the vehicle. A video clip has also been found and it reveals that Sawant-Desai was not driving the vehicle,” said Paraskar.
On Tuesday morning, about 250 people, including relatives of the victims, local residents and political leaders, made their way into the university vice-chancellor’s office and demanded that Sawant-Desai be sacked. “It was a large mob comprising about 100 women. They started arguing and shouting at us. As the issue may turn serious and a law and order situation may arise, we decided to send Sawant-Desai on leave,” said Subhash Chavan, in-charge Registrar of KKV, Dapoli.