While endangering the lives of citizens repeatedly, this contracting firm has managed a few narrow escapes of its own, wriggling out of any kind of penalty. But Thursday’s mishap at Wadala was perhaps the last straw. Simplex Infrastructure Limited — the contractor deployed by MMRDA at many of its project sites — may face strict action this time, with sources from the planning authority telling MiD DAY that they plan to debar the contractor for a period of two years.
This could spell doom for the contractor, as it won’t be able to bid for any of MMRDA’s fresh projects.
MMRDA has taken serious note of Thursday night’s mishap at the construction site for Anik Panjarpol Link Road (APLR), part of the Rs 700 crore Eastern Freeway Project. One person was killed and eight others were injured when part of the under-construction freeway collapsed. An anonymous source said that MMRDA is in the process of imposing the ban on Simplex for a period of two years. This is not the first accident at an MMRDA construction site manned by Simplex — there have been around six accidents at Simplex’s construction sites over the past few years.
In April, a large chunk of concrete, roughly a foot long, fell from between the two girders of the Lalbaug flyover onto Dr BR Ambedkar Road below, bringing traffic to a standstill for an hour. Luckily for Simplex, no one was injured in the accident (‘Indonesia quake caused Lalbaug Flyover crack’, MiD DAY, April 14).
Action was then initiated to debar Simplex from taking up any work with MMRDA for two years, for failure to observe safety norms in the Lalbaug flyover project. And Thursday’s debacle sealed the contractor’s fate.
MMRDA Commissioner Rahul Asthana said, “The incident which took place on Thursday night is unfortunate, and MMRDA will soon be appointing an independent expert committee to investigate the matter. After the last accident at Lalbaug flyover, we have already issued a show cause notice to the contractor and strict action will be taken against whosoever is responsible for this mishap.”
Back in 2010, MiD DAY had reported on other mishaps at MMRDA sites manned by Simplex, and exposed how the firm had even managed to avoid paying fines.
According to MMRDA officials, prima-facie it appears that a structural failure in launching the girder led to Thursday’s mishap, as the segments of the span, which were being erected and glued together, fell.
The debris crushed a car, a transit mixer, a taxi as well as a truck stationed under the flyover. The fire brigade rushed to the site and began rescue operations immediately. Three cranes were also mobilised to remove the collapsed launching girders and segments. Rescue operations are expected to achieve completion by the today morning, 36 hours from the mishap. Traffic will then ply smoothly on Wadala Truck Terminus Road again.
The injured were admitted to Sion and KEM Hospitals. A compensation of Rs5 lakh was offered to the family of the deceased, and treatment costs and compensation will be given to the injured, depending on the severity of the injuries.
The MMRDA has already initiated an enquiry into the accident in order to identify the cause of accident and decide who was responsible.
A spokesperson from Simplex Infrastructure Limited said, “It is a very unusual and a most unfortunate incident. We have launched an investigation into the same. Prima facie, the cause of the mishap seems to be some kind of mechanical failure of equipment engaged for erection. A team of experts in the field has been deputed to investigate the details and necessary action will be taken on the basis of this report.”
He added, “There has been a loss of one life in this unfortunate incident, that of our subcontractor’s fellow worker, and we are deeply saddened and offer our heartfelt condolences to his family. The injured were rushed to hospitals nearby and were provided with all necessary medical aid and facilities. None of them are critical and should be released from the hospital soon. We are taking necessary steps to restore normalcy at the site and are getting full cooperation from all agencies in the clean-up operation. We hope to complete the same at the earliest. Simplex Infrastructures has always adhered to the highest quality of construction and has never compromised with safety & integrity at any of its projects.”
Government wants answers
The state government wants to know whether it was negligence or a technical problem that led to Thursday night’s debacle at Wadala. “We will find out the reasons behind the mishap,” said Jayant Patil, district guardian minister for Mumbai island city.
This was the second such accident involving Simplex, Patil observed. He added that compensation would be provided to the kin of the victim who died. Meanwhile, Jagannath Shetty, local MLA from Sion-GTB Nagar area, blamed the contractor. “It is a tendency among the big contractors to appoint sub-contractors to carry out odd jobs. I apprised the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan of the situation soon after visiting the location,” he said.