All PWD officials were instructed well before the monsoons to ensure safety at road, bridge and building worksites. Accidents like the one on Saturday at a bridge in Thripunithura, which claimed the life of a youth, could have been avoided if the officials concerned had paid heed to the instructions, Public Works Minister P.A. Mohamed Riyas told mediapersons at Fort Kochi on Monday.
The department will not tolerate any such apathy in regard to safety and quality of works, he said, and assured that action will be taken if the public informs him or higher ups in the department about compromises made in construction.
To a question on a section of contractors seeking cover under the alibi that there ought to be specific mention in the agreement about warning boards, barricades, reflectors, and other safety measures, Mr. Riyas said the PWD Manual has mentioned in detail about the norms to ensure public safety. The department’s field-level officials such as Assistant Engineer and overseer are duty bound to adhere to this, and higher officials such as the Assistant Executive Engineer ought to supervise this. After all, human life and taxpayer’s money are at stake. Instructions have been given to Chief Engineers of each wing to ensure that the officials concerned inspect all work sites.
The police have been told to register criminal cases, in incidents like the recent one at Thripunithura. A detailed probe is underway (following which the contractor, Assistant Engineer and Assistant Executive Engineer have been arrested) and an internal enquiry has been launched as well.
When his attention was drawn to the condition of the arterial Vyttila-Thykoodam Road in Kochi that is in shoddy condition, after being trenched by KWA for pipelaying work, Mr. Riyas said there have been complaints about the KWA often trenching roads that are in good condition. Each department ought to register the work they intend to execute on roads in a common portal to prevent such situations. They also ought to restore the roads in safe and motorable condition soon after their work is over, he added.
Demand to blacklist
The Thripunithura Rajanagari Union of Residents Associations (TRURA) has in the meantime demanded that the police charge the contractor and the errant PWD officials (Bridges wing) in the Thripunithura case with murder. “The residents’ body had met the officials over a year ago and demanded that the contractor be blacklisted, when an embankment near the bridge collapsed, since the same contractor had been found wanting in the renovation work of Andhakaara Thodu,” said its convenor V.C. Jayendran.