After Shitlaprada O Kori, a retired Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Chief Engineer, got arrested in the CSMT bridge collapse case, all engineers of BMC have gone on a mass leave from May 9 for the next 15 days. It is worth mentioning that seven people lost their lives while 36 were left injured due to the CSMT bridge collapse on March 14, 2019.
The engineers’ union believes that the authorities cannot arrest anyone until the actual reason for the bridge collapse is known. In protest with the arrest of engineers, other BMC engineers are on mass leave. Sainath Rajadhyaksha, the Executive President of BMC Engineers’ Union told Afternoon Voice, “Everyone suddenly took this decision of going on mass leave. Before arresting anyone, his/her guilt should be proved. At the same time, various factors must be taken into consideration.” Asking why the workers are being targeted under media pressure, he further said, “We all want justice to our peers.” When asked how long this strike will continue, he stated, “So far for 15 days; if the justice is not delivered, we might call for an indefinite strike.” Forty-two engineers have collectively gone on mass leave for 15 days.
This, in turn, may affect the construction and repair work of all the bridges in Mumbai, which is in full swing these days. The engineers had also met the Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta at Shirodkar School in Parel to express their unhappiness. Sainath Rajadhyaksha said, “We met the Commissioner and expressed our concerns over Kori’s arrest. We have received a positive response from him.”
When asked about the mass leave by the BMC engineers, Maharashtra BJP Spokesperson Avdhut Wagh said, “There is no such law which prohibits Police from arresting anybody before completion of the inquiry. Police can arrest any suspect for the inquiry. The arrest of the retired Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) chief engineer Shitlaprada O Kori does not suggest that he is guilty in this case. The ongoing inquiry might need his presence.”
He went on saying, “Everybody should cooperate with the Inquiry Commission, Inquiry Committee, police and administration in Himalaya Foot Over Bridge case. Moreover, people should not create any obstacle in the inquiry. No injustice will be done to anybody, our system (BMC administration and the state government) will not allow it.”
The retired chief engineer with the bridges department Kori was in-charge of the department until he retired in December last year. He was arrested on charges of negligence and, has been sent to police custody till May 10. This is the fourth arrest in the case. Sainath Rajadhyaksha said, “We are undergoing a lot of stress. All this should stop, because tomorrow, any engineer could be arrested in any case without any proof.”
Meanwhile, the BMC suspended four officials on the basis of the initial investigation report after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered a high-level inquiry into the same. Mumbai Police also arrested the structural auditor of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Neeraj Kumar Desai, who apparently declared the Himalaya Foot Overbridge (FOB) safe for use in his audit report. Initially, the police had detained Desai for investigation but later on arrested the structural auditor, too. Police have also recorded the statements of Additional BMC Commissioner Sanjay Darde along with other officials. Desai’s company had reportedly conducted a structural audit of the collapsed bridge.
According to the reports, Sukhdev Kashid, General Secretary, Municipal Mazdoor Union, said that there is a process within the BMC to investigate matters. “Is the Municipal Commissioner not competent enough that the police have to take matters into their own hands? Does the State government want to divert attention from other things by doing this arrest? We will fight this legally.” Kashid also alleged, “The real culprits are being protected in the BMC.”
It is notable that Himalaya Bridge was supposed to get repaired in 2013-14. The foot over-bridge, which connects Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus to BT Lane, had crashed on March 14.