The Hatkeshwar bridge was built by the two companies Ajay Engineering Infrastructure Private Limited and SGS India Private Limited, and was damaged just four years after it was made publicly accessible. On Saturday, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) filed a FIR against representatives of these two companies.
The FIR was filed on the day Municipal Commissioner M Thennarasan announced that the Rs 40 crore flyover that was intended to connect Khokhra and CTM crossroad would be demolished. The AMC also launched departmental investigations against eight of its engineers, suspending four of them, removing three of them from service, and keeping the fourth on a contract basis, Thennarasan told reporters on Saturday. All of these engineers were in charge of overseeing the bridge project.
The decision came after a team of experts ruled that it had severely compromised on quality and saw a “conspiracy” by the contractor and project management consultant.
“The whole bridge consists of eight spans. The main span is 42 metres and the others are 33 metres. The superstructure would be completely destroyed and reconstructed, as per the recommendations. This will be done simultaneously. The reconstruction cost will be recovered from the firms. The report on the quality of piles and piers of the bridge is yet to come,” said Thennarasan. Locals and opposition parties had staged several protests over the dilapidated condition of the bridge.
An FIR based on a complaint by AMC deputy city engineer Jignesh Patel, against both the firms was registered at the Khokhra police station under IPC sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), and 120 B (criminal conspiracy), against nine accused, Ramesh Patel (director and chairman of AEIPL) , Rasik Patel (director of AEIPL), Chiragkumar Patel (director of AEIPL), Kalpeshkumar Patel (director of AEIPL), AEIPL, Amit Thakkar (director of SGS India Private Limited), Shanshibhushan Jogani (director of SGS India Private Limited), Nilam Patel (project engineer of SGS India Private Limited) and SGS India Private Limited.
Additionally, the AMC hired a number of impartial organisations, such as the CIMAC 1, to conduct inspections and sample testing.In 2017, the public was allowed to cross the Hatkeshwar Bridge. Since April 2021, there have been five deck settlements and one box settlement in the bridge, with the most recent occurring in August 2022, when the bridge was shut down to traffic.
The AMC also hired several independent organisations, such as the CIMAC laboratory, SVNIT, Surat, and IIT-Roorkee, to conduct inspections and sample testing. As a result, a three-member expert panel was assembled, and it issued a report concluding that the “concrete quality is so poor that all available factors of safety in design and materials have been consumed by it.” Mahesh Tandon, a former IIT-Roorkee professor and chairman of the three-person expert committee, along with Subodh Jain and Umesh Rajeshirke, noted that “the contractor did not carry out a load test before putting the bridge into operation” and that “the concrete quality is so poor that all available factors of safety in design and materials have been consumed by it, and poor quality of concrete is the main cause of failure.” A committee member noted that “clear conspiracy on part of the contract and project management consulting in defrauding AMC”.
“The accused conspired together to form a pre-planned conspiracy and gained the confidence of the officials of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to construct Hatkeshwar bridge on Khokhra-Hatkeshwar road, for which Rs. 39.87 crore tender was approved. The bridge was made using poor quality material and as per the reports of various authorised testing agencies, the bridge was not left suitable for use and had put the lives of the people at risk. By using the poor material for construction of Hatkeshwar bridge, the accused have committed the crime of fraud and betrayal of trust,” the FIR states.
Thennarasan added that the two firms would also be blacklisted. The contract given to Ajay Engineering Infrastructure Private Limited for work on another under-construction bridge at Pallav char-rasta (crossroads) has also been put on hold.
The eight engineers under probe include assistant engineer Satishkumar Patel, who was then the technical supervisor; assistant engineer Atulkumar Patel; assistant city engineer Ashish Patel; deputy city engineer Manoj Solanki, then an assistant city engineer; retired city engineer PD Patel; retired additional city engineer Paresh Shah who was then a deputy city engineer; retired additional city engineer Paresh A Shah, was then a deputy city engineer; and Hitesh Contractor who had retired as in-charge city engineer and additional city engineer but is currently an in-charge city engineer-on-contract.
AMC also addressed multiple letters to AEIPL and SGS, calling them out to do the required rectification work. However, these entities evaded AMC’s repeated requests and made excuses justifying the structural integrity of the bridge, contrary to what was discovered by AMC, the FIR states.
“The accused persons…have dishonestly dealt with, misappropriated, siphoned off and disposed of the said property in breach of the trust placed by AMC under the various contracts,” the FIR reads.