The Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Morbi civic body on Wednesday passed two separate resolutions on handing private firm Oreva Group the contract to renovate a bridge in the city which collapsed in October, resulting in the death of 141 persons, PTI reported.
One of the resolutions was moved by office bearers of the civic body and another by the councillors. Both the groups claimed they were not aware of the agreement under which the renovation contract was given to Oreva Group.
The resolutions were passed at a meeting to discuss the civic body’s reply to a show-cause notice sent by the state government. The Gujarat government had asked the civic body to explain why it should not be dissolved for failing to discharge its duties.
The colonial-era bridge on the city’s Machchu river had collapsed on October 30, just four days after the bridge was reopened for the public following seven months of renovation.
On November 15, the Gujarat High Court had asked the state government to explain why the contract for the renovation of the century-old suspension bridge was given to Oreva Group without floating a tender. The High Court is hearing a public interest litigation on the matter.
The Morbi civic body has claimed that the Oreva Group opened the suspension bridge without its approval. On its part, the Oreva Group had told the court that “some very highly placed entities” persuaded it to take over the repair and operation of the bridge.
On Wednesday, 49 out of 52 members of the civic body’s general board participated in the meeting to discuss the reply to the government. Three members had sought leave, reported The Indian Express.
While presenting the first resolution, Jayrajsinh Jadeja, the vice president of the municipality, said the office bearers, including the president, vice president and standing committee chairman, were innocent as the proposal to hand over the bridge to Oreva Group in March had not been approved through a general board meeting, according to PTI.
“Moreover, we have also mentioned in our reply that the Morbi municipality was ruled by Congress when the first agreement was approved by the board [in 2007] for the maintenance of the bridge,” Jadeja said.
The resolution was favoured by seven out of the 49 members. It was declared passed as no one opposed it.
Later, Councillor Bhavik Jariya moved another resolution stating that the 49 councillors were not aware of the agreement signed by the civic body with Oreva Group.
“As per the law, the municipality’s permission is needed for such agreements,” Jariya said, according to PTI. “But, we were not informed about it. Even the Special Investigation Team never said in its findings that the entire civic body was responsible for this tragedy.”
This resolution was supported by 41 members other than the seven members who had backed the first resolution.