Gujarat Bridge Reopened Ahead Of Schedule. 141 Dead

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Gujarat bridge collapse: There were close to 500 people on the bridge when it collapsed

New Delhi:

The bridge that collapsed in Gujarat’s Morbi yesterday, killing more than 140 people, was opened to the public ahead of schedule by the private company hired for its maintenance, documents reveal.

According to the contract between the Morbi municipal body and Ajanta Manufacturing Private Limited, accessed by NDTV, the bridge had to be shut for at least eight to 12 months for maintenance and repairs.

But the historic colonial-era bridge was thrown open to the public within seven months, on October 26, when the Gujarati New Year is celebrated. The company did not take a fitness certificate from the civic authorities, which Morbi municipal agency chief Sandipsinh Zala confirmed to NDTV on Sunday.

Ajanta, a clockmaker, is part of the Oreva Group, which sold tickets for the bridge at Rs 17 apiece.

Apart from the early reopening, every safety rule was broken.

There were close to 500 people on the “hanging bridge” when the cables snapped on Sunday evening, sending hundreds tumbling into the river. The bridge could take the weight of only about 125 people, according to officials. The crowd included women performing Chhath puja rituals, and scores of children.

Though tickets were sold, there was no apparent crowd control, either by the private company or by the administration. There was allegedly no cap on the number of people on the suspension bridge, which is listed as a popular tourist site in an official Gujarat government website.

Ajanta, a company known as a clockmaker, signed a 15-year contract with the Morbi municipal body to maintain the bridge and collect payment in the form of tickets.

The agreement was discussed in January 2020 and the deal was signed in March this year.

According to the agreement that is valid till 2037, the company would raise the ticket price every year.

It is not clear how the bridge was reopened to people without any apparent official approval.

Gujarat Minister Harsh Sanghavi evaded NDTV’s questions on the bridge operating without a fitness certificate.

The Gujarat government has appointed a committee to investigate the bridge collapse and the factors leading up to it.

“Rarely have I felt such pain,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, referring to the tragedy at an event in Gujarat this morning.

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