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Firm, Staff Charged in Kolkata Collapse

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

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Three officials from the company building the overpass that collapsed Thursday (March 31) in Kolkata, India, have been arrested in relation to the incident, NPR reported Saturday (April 2).

The mid-level executives—a structural manager, senior assistant general manager and assistant manager—from Indian infrastructure firm IVRCL face charges of attempted murder and criminal conspiracy, according to local police.

The under-construction flyover gave way around noon Thursday (March 31) in a busy commercial district, as previously reported. Local news stations and social media showed CCTV footage that captured the moment when the concrete overpass collapsed onto vehicles and a crowd of people below it.

Since Thursday, the death toll has risen to 26, numerous reports said. More than 80 injured had been transferred to the hospital for treatment.

Company, Staff Under Scrutiny

The arrests occurred Friday evening (April 1), The Guardian said. Five other employees were also brought in for questioning. IVRCL’s Kolkata office has been sealed by police.

Those in custody include assistant manager Debjyoti Majumdar, assistant general manager Mallikaarjun and structure manager Pradip Kumar Saha, The Indian Express reported.

They were scheduled to appear in Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Kolkata April 2.

PBS NewsHour indicated that the three officials face sentences of life in prison or even death if found guilty, according to a statement a chief prosecutor made to Agence France-Presse.

The five staff members detained for questioning over possible criminal breach of trust and culpable homicide face punishment ranging from up to seven years to life in prison respectively, police told The Guardian.

The company itself has been charged with culpable homicide not amounting to murder, attempt to commit culpable homicide and criminal breach of trust by carrier, etc., under the Indian penal code, the area paper added.

IVRCL—a major construction company carrying out irrigation, road, mining and power projects across India, Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Africa—had been building the 1.2-mile Vivekananda Road flyover since 2009, various reports noted.

As reported earlier, a lack of inspections and use of substandard materials are two areas said to plague construction in India. However, despite encountering delays in finishing the project, construction officials denied these were factors in the collapse.

"We did not use any inferior quality material and we will cooperate with the investigators," A.G.K. Murthy, IVRCL's director of operations, told reporters in Hyderabad where the firm is based immediately after the collapse. "We are in a state of shock."

KP Rao, another official at IVRCL Infrastructure, also stated at the time: “About 70 percent of the construction work was completed properly. The experts regularly monitored the progress of the project … It is a total act of God.”

‘Bad Reputation,’ Blacklisted

According to reports, IVRCL suffers from a bad reputation and has been blacklisted by organizations in other areas of the country.

Derek O’Brien, a spokesman for the state of West Bengal, where the disaster occurred, told The New York Times the company had been prohibited from doing business in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

“The company has a bad reputation,” he told the news agency ANI. “The law will take its own course. No one will be spared.”

According to Satish Agnihotri, the chairman and managing director of Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, publicly owned under the Railways Ministry, IVRCL is “a major defaulter.”

Agnihotri told the Times that, in the past three years, his company had terminated its contracts with IVRCL because of unacceptable performance. The firm is not permitted to bid on any contracts with the rail company for two years after the date of the last termination, he added.

“They were working with us, with our company, and because of their lack of performance, or because of their poor performance, we terminated their contracts,” he said.

IVRCL had also been blacklisted recently in the Indian state of Jharkhand as well, Chandreshwar Prasad Singh, minister of urban development, housing and transportation in the area, told the paper.

On the floor of the state assembly in February, Singh had accused the company of cheating the government, the Times reported, after the company had delayed finishing projects such as laying water pipelines and putting up electrical wires in eight rural districts, he said.

“Such companies need to know that it is a question both of quality and quantity,” said Singh, adding that companies need to recognize projects “must be finished in a time-bound manner.

“IVRCL failed on all accounts,” he added.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Asia Pacific; Bridges; concrete; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Fatalities; Health and safety; Infrastructure; Inspection; Latin America; North America; Quality Control; Roads/Highways; Steel

Comment from Car F., (4/5/2016, 11:07 AM)

When was the last time a US builder/owner/employer that caused death to its employees was arrested and criminally charged? Crime in the US is rampant. Criminals are walking free our streets causing pain, suffering and bringing disrepute to the business.

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