Will the truth of the Morbi accident come out?
Mohd Kalim Siddiqui
“Hoon ahin chhu pan maru man morbi na peekit parivar saathai chhe” (I am here but my heart is with the families of the victims of Morbi) in Gujarati are the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. October 30 was the birth anniversary of Iron Man Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. On this occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest of the ceremony organized at the Statue of Unity, Rajpipla. The Prime Minister, in his address on the occasion, said this while expressing grief over the breaking of the swinging pool at Machhu Dam in Morbi. All cultural programs were postponed after his address.
Aam Aadmi Party’s Gopal Italia and Ishudan Gadhvi reached Morbi on the night of the incident itself. The next morning, the state in-charge of Gujarat Congress and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also reached Morbi and expressed condolences with the families of the victims. The next day the Prime Minister also arrived, but whatever the meaning of these formal exercises and for the people, the grief of the families of the dead will not go away.
Before this accident, Morbi was known outside Gujarat only because of its ceramic industry. Morbi town, which is called the Mecca of the ceramic industry, is situated in the Kathiawar peninsula of Gujarat. As of 2011 India census, Morbi has a population of 1,94,947. Morbi city is situated on the banks of Machhu river. About 35 km from here, the sea begins, which connects Morbi with Africa with Central and East Asia. 70 percent of the country’s ceramic industry is in this city. Apart from Jhulto bridge, Nagar Darwaza and Trimandir attract tourists to Morbi. Before the present tragic incident, on August 11, 1979, there was an influx due to the Machhu Dam collapse, in which about 2500 people died. There was loss of property worth hundreds of crores then. The incident of 30 October is the second most tragic incident in the history of Morbi.
- This ‘Jhulto bridge’ was built in 1879 during the time of Raja Waghji Thakor of Morbi, which was 765 feet in length and 4.6 feet in width.
- Without checking the quality of this bridge built at a height of 60 feet from the river surface, corruption seems to be the main reason behind opening it to the general public on holidays.
- The Orewa Trust, a watch maker in the name of Private Public Partnership (PPP) model, was selected by the municipality for operation and revival.
- Instead of writing the name of the Orewa company in the FIR lodged by the police after the accident, it is written, ‘Agency operating the bridge and its management or person whose name is found in the investigation’, while the name of the Orewa company is also written on the tickets.
- No fitness certificate was given by the municipality.
The District Collector Office and the Municipality also do not have the Structure Stability Report.
- After the accident, the local administration is shunning saying that once the hammock is given on contract, it is the responsibility of the agency to get the structure report and fitness certificate.
- It should be noted that in the PPP model, the profit sharing is fixed, but the responsibility is not fixed. The same seems to be happening in the present case as well.
hesitation of the police
Seeing the direction and speed of investigation after the accident, it seems that the government machinery is not able to fix the responsibility of this incident. So far the police have arrested nine people. But the kind of FIR that has been registered and the way the investigation is proceeding, it seems that the criminals are very powerful. Malik of Orewa Company has not been arrested yet. In the press conference, when the reporters asked the Rajkot range IG why Malik of Oreva had not been arrested till now, he was a little uncomfortable and replied, ‘Whoever plays a role in the investigation will not be released.’
Whatever came out in the police investigation, but some questions have emerged from this whole episode, which need to be considered.
- The historic swinging bridge of Morbi was closed for the last seven months and its renovation work was going on. It is coming to the fore that the renovation work was done by Dev Prakash Solutions of Dhrangdhara, while the work of operation of the bridge is with Orewa Group.
- One thing to see is where the bridge is broken. An iron structure and an iron cable were attached to the anchor fastener in two legs at the corner of the Durbar Citadel. The entire bridge collapsed due to the breaking of the anchor pin.
- How the anchor pin broke may be the subject of major investigation as the anchor pin connects the structure at both ends of the bridge.
- This further raises the question of how and why the load on the bridge exceeded the capacity of the anchor pin.
Incidentally, the priority of the administration is also reflected in the fact that after receiving information about the Prime Minister’s visit to the Morbi Government Hospital, he devoted his energies to getting the hospital painted.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.