Ahmedabad: A day after the Bhupendra Patel Government slapped a showcause notice asking the BJP-ruled Morbi Municipality why it should not be superseded, 41 out of total 52 councillors (all from BJP) on Wednesday washed their hands off the October 30 bridge collapse that claimed 141 lives claiming the civic body never approved the maintenance contract to the Oreva Group.
A resolution to this effect was passed in the Morbi Municipality’s general body meeting on Wednesday after the Gujarat Government on Tuesday sought a fresh reply from the civic body after the response to its similar notice earlier was rejected.
Not aware of any agreement, say 41 councillors
In an urgently convened general board meeting on Wednesday, 41 of 52 councillors of the municipality submitted a separate majority reply that they were just not aware of any agreement to hand over the colonial-era suspension bridge to the Oreva Group for maintenance and operation.
Incidentally, in a suo motu petition in the Morbi tragedy Gujarat High Court had much earlier pulled up the State Government why it had not dissolved the municipality for this negligence that caused the devastating bridgecollapse. It was after this that the government issued a notice to themunicipality on January 18 but rejected its reply on February 7. A fresh notice was issued on Tuesday asking the civic body to send a written reply by February 16.
Replies to be sent to state govt for further action
In-charge Chief Officer of Morbi NK Muchhal told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting that, “Two separate replies, one from the civic body and another from councillors, were submitted. These replies will be sent to the State Government for further action.”
The municipality’s vice-president Jayrajsinh Jadeja told mediapersons in Morbi that the municipality’s office-bearers, including the president, himself and the Standing Committee chairman “are innocent” since neither the proposal nor the agreement to hand over the bridge to Oreva in March 2022 was approved by the general board meeting.
“We are not guilty because the agreement to hand over the bridge to Oreva Group (which was signed by now suspended Chief Officer Sandeep Jhala) was never discussed or approved in the general board meeting. Moreover, we have also mentioned in our reply that Morbi municipality was ruled by Congress when the first agreement was approved by the board (in 2007) for the maintenance of the bridge,” said Jadeja.
Representing the 41 councillors, Bhavik Jaria told reporters that 49 of 52 councillors were not aware of the agreement with the Oreva Group.
He said, “In our reply, we have stated that 49 of 52 councillors were notaware of this agreement. As per the law, the municipality’s permission is needed for such agreements. But, we were not informed about it. Even the Special Investigation Team (SIT) never said in its findings that the entire civic body was responsible for this tragedy.”
Why the municipality ignored the serious issues raised by the Oreva Group between 2018 and 2020, asks state govt
The State Government had in its January 18 show-cause notice demanded to know why the municipality ignored the serious issues raised by the Oreva Group between 2018 and 2020 about the dilapidated condition of the bridgeand the possibility of a serious accident if it remained open to the public.
The civic body also did not bother to take over the pedestrian bridge from the private company in 2017 after the term of the contract expired then. The government had even assured the Gujarat High Court on December 13 that it would dissolve the civic body.
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