A DAY after police arrested assistant engineer Sandeep Kakulte in connection with the Himalaya bridge collapse, his 53-year-old supervisor, identified as Anil Patil, was also arrested late on Tuesday.
According to police, Patil, who is an executive engineer, had failed to oversee Kakulte’s work regarding structural audit, tests and repairs of the Himalaya bridge. Police said the duo was arrested on the basis of a report by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). According to the manual, it is mandatory for the respective engineers to be present at the site.
Patil had been employed with the bridge department since December 2014 and Kakulte since 2005. On March 15, a day after the FOB collapsed, the BMC had suspended the two and also initiated a departmental inquiry against former chief engineer (bridges) S O Kori and former deputy chief engineer R B Tare, who have retired. The inquiry report found that all four officials were responsible for poor supervision of the structural audit.
Patil will be produced before the court on Wednesday. However, police produced Kakulte in Killa court on Tuesday afternoon, from where he was remanded to police custody till April 5.
When magistrate N N Joshi asked Kakulte if he had appointed an advocate, he replied in the negative and said, “I am handicapped and cannot walk properly. I would still travel from Virar to work daily. The workload has been too much for me and I had even requested the department to transfer me to another. I got the charge of 39 bridges and being handicapped, it was difficult for me to personally visit each site.”
The investigation team, however, said the assistant engineer had not visited any of the 39 bridges he had been assigned.
Police said he failed to be present during the repair work of the Himalaya bridge in 2013-14. They added that he was also absent when the inventory and the non-destructive test were being conducted by Prof D D Desai’s Structural Engineering and Analyst Private Limited and Gio Dynamics in December 2016 and July 2017.
Police also said in 2017, from January to March, the A ward was repairing the bridge, but Kakulte again failed to be present. Since Patil failed in his job profile of inquiring after Kakulte’s work, he too was arrested, police added. “We saw pictures and learnt that there were no repairs or test conducted on the lower portion of the bridge. Kakulte is a specialist, and had he been present, he could have suggested appropriate spots to conduct tests and repairs,” said Inspector Ramesh Yadav of Azad Maidan police station.
Asking for his custody, the public prosecutor said, “He has remained absent right from the first day and we need to check whether there were any financial transactions that led to such negligence.”
Earlier, Neeraj Kumar Desai, director of Prof D D Desai’s Structural Engineering and Analyst Private Limited, was arrested in the case. He had conducted the FOB’s structural audit and had stated that the bridge was in “good condition”.