India: Gross negligence blamed for bridge collapse that killed 140

 (Photo: Reuters)

A 140 year old bridge over the Machchhu river in the Gujarat State of India collapsed on 30 October killing 140 people and injuring more than a 100. The bridge, popularly known as the Morbi bridge, (locally as Jhulta bridge) is a pedestrian suspension bridge which was closed for repairs in March 2022. 

Amidst the public outcry over the tragedy, the government has constituted a five-member team composed of police officers and bureaucrats to investigate the accident. It also issued a public statement blaming the private company responsible for repairing the bridge, saying it opened the bridge to visitors during a festival period without a safety audit from the government. 

 According to reports, more than 500 people had purchased tickets to visit the bridge which only had only a capacity of 125 people. 

The contract for the bridge’s repair and maintenance was awarded to Oreva Group, a private company known as a major manufacturer of light bulbs, wall clocks and e-bikes. Before bagging the Morbi bridge contract, the company allegedly has no experience in construction or infrastructure maintenance. 

Bandhkam Mazdoor Sangathan, one of BWI’s affiliates in Gujarat State, condemned the incident. “The reopening of the bridge without any safety clearance and safety audit exhibits acts of gross negligence and laxity on the part of the contractor and the government. This incident could have been totally prevented. We could have avoided the unnecessary loss of so many precious lives and injury of many others. We strongly urge the government to take firm action and put measures in place so that similar accidents are not repeated in the future. We also call for regular safety audits at the construction and infrastructure sites with workers’ representatives on board,” BMS General Secretary Vipul Pandya said.

The local and national governments announced that it would be providing compensation amounting to  NR 400,000 (USD 4,826)  and INR 200,000 ( USD 2,413) respectively each to the families of those who perished in the accident, while INR 50,000 INR (USD 603) will be given to those who were injured.