Citizens' Issues
Neera River Death: Consultant blames driver but recommends safety repairs!

Moneylife invoked Section 7 of the RTI Act to procure the safety audit report, after four young ad professionals of Pune died after their car plunged into Neera River. What we discovered was shocking

Four young ad professionals from Pune died in a horrendous tragedy on 2nd November when their car plunged into the Neera River through a dangerous gap left open at the tip of the bridge on the Mumbai-Bangalore Highway. However, the National Highway Authorities of India (NHAI) insisted that unless they get a safety audit report from their safety consultants, HAKS Engineers and Info Trans Engineers Pvt Ltd, they would not undertake safety repairs.


Moneylife invoked the RTI Act under Section 7, under which the applicant can get information within 48 hours, “Provided that where the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the same shall be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request.’’


The writer received the copy of the safety audit report on the afternoon of 19th November.


Shockingly, the ‘Inspection report on accident at Neera Bridge site’ puts the blame squarely on the driver stating that: “In spite of the warning signs and barricades, the accident has taken place. The opinion of the safety consultant is that the driver of the vehicle has ignored the warning signs. The accident occurred due to the driver’s fault and not due to the deficiency of the safety measures at the bridge site.’’


This is clearly an attempt by the safety consultants to protect and defend the NHAI and Reliance Infra despite their complete criminal negligence through shoddy and unsafe work on this stretch of the highway. Photographs published in Moneylife last week clearly show that Reliance had not protected the tip of the bridge with a crash barrier; the ‘work in progress’ signboard of the NHAI on the left is confusing to drivers, particularly at night.


After having squarely put the blame on the driver, the safety report recommends safety measures, which this writer through the Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch has been demanding. It states: “Cross wall connecting the abutments of the two bridges shall be raised above the ground level up to the height of the hand railings to avoid the entry of animal and human into the river by accident or mistake.’’


The wordings of this recommendation are highly objectionable as it trivialises the issue.


The second recommendation is: “Metal beam crash barriers shall be provided on the right edge of the carriageway to suitable length.’’


This is the very place where the car plunged into the Neera River. However, the safety consultant admits it, after having put the blame on the victims who can speak no more.


Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch had given the NHAI, seven days that is 26th November, to do the necessary repairs, or else agitate. It is also in the process of collecting information under RTI to file a public interest litigation (PIL), on the 140 km stretch of this highway, which runs through Maharashtra and is being built, maintained and operated by Reliance Infra.


The contract agreement procured by Moneylife shows that it is mandatory for the Reliance Infra to check the road conditions in terms of passenger safety and traffic signboards every seven days and it is incumbent on the NHAI to monitor the work of the contracting agency.


Following are some of the points in the Contract Agreement:

*that the traffic worthiness and safety are at no time inferior and that the worthiness of the road should be checked every 7 days

* For the avoidance of doubt, it is agreed that the Concessionaire shall at all times be responsible for ensuring safe operation of the Project Highway

* The independent Engineer shall inspect the Project Highway at least once a month and make a report of such inspection (the "Inspection Report") stating in reasonable detail the defects or deficiencies

*Upon recommendation of the Independent Engineer to this effect, the Authority may by notice require the Concessionaire to suspend forthwith the whole or any part of the Construction Works if, in the reasonable opinion of the Authority, such work threatens the safety of the Users and pedestrians.


The obligations of the Concessionaire (in this case Reliance Infra) hereunder shall include:


(a) permitting safe, smooth and uninterrupted flow of traffic on the Project Highway during normal operating conditions;


(d) carrying out periodic preventive maintenance of the Project Highway;


(e) undertaking routine maintenance including prompt repairs of potholes, cracks, joints, drains, embankments, structures, pavement markings, lighting, road signs and other traffic control devices;


(f) undertaking major maintenance such as resurfacing of pavements, repairs to structures, and repairs and refurbishment of tolling system and other equipment;


(i) operation and maintenance of all communication, control and administrative systems necessary for the efficient operation of the Project Highway;


(k) maintaining a public relations unit to interface with and attend to suggestions from the Users, government agencies, media and agencies; and


(I) complying with Safety Requirements.


The NHAI and Reliance are also bound by the NHAI’s Safety Manual as well as Citizen Charter besides the contract agreement. Both are flouting all norms at the expense of innocent lives being snuffed out. As per the information procured from the Rajgad Police Station by the writer, in the 29 km stretch between Katraj tunnel and the Neera Bridge, there have been 174 deaths and 111 serious injuries from January 2011 to 31 October 2013.


Strangely, the safety report does not have a dateline of when it has submitted the report to the NHAI though it says that inspection took place on 12 November 2013. The inspection report does not even give any timeline to conduct the necessary repairs. So, is this all just a farce?


(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)




3 years ago

Could you out a photo of the approach to the gap, the went through, to understand the issue?

Prakash Basrur

3 years ago

Our national motto should have been "Chalta Hai" ! I did my B.E.(civil) from VJTI (Mumbai) in 1966 and gave up that profession in 1969 to take up computer management precisely because I felt civil engineering ( be it building construction or road construction ) as practiced in India is not a "science" ! As a Site Engineer on A.C.C.'s Chandrapur Cement Plant Construction site whenever I scrupulously "checked" the diameter and "lap-length" of reinforcement rods to be as per the drawing from the design office, I was laughed at by both the contractor's personnel as well as company's (i.e. client's) old time engineers. They dubbed it as a "show off" by me ! After going through such type of civil engineering "practice" that too on the site of a reputed "cement manufacturing" company I was totally disillusioned and left engineering to become a "computer engineer" so that I was in a better desciplined career ! Have you any time in your life seen BMC / PWD /CPWD /ZP civil engineers doing thorough checking of concrete mix and the steel reinforcement at any site or for that matter checking personally at site the asphalting/concreting of roads ? In fact civil engineers in India consider themselves to be "white collared" rather than "blue collared" workers ! They feel demeaning to be standing at the concreting sites in hot sun ! Nobody inspects the civil work for it to be as per contract specifications ! The "Government Engineers" delegate such serious responsibility to the poor ill-paid "Surveyor/Mukadams" under them and they in turn down delegate it to the contractors personnel at site ! With such neglect in their responsibility it is but natural that nowhere in India proper , i.e. well-written and conspicuous , road signs are ever displayed at any construction site. We even today do not have site areas with sign boards such as "Hard Hat Area" and "No Entry Without Helmet" !

prakash sawant

3 years ago

Let's see, what happens till 26th Nov 2013.
Hope for the best, that atlest they make construction of safety cross wall on the gap between two bridges.
As a reader, I fully support to "Nav Bharat Nagarik Manch" for their stand against goverment's irresponsible behaviour.

chandrashekhar kulkarni

3 years ago

Everyone knows with blessing of Politician & paying them bribe,all such illegal toll collection going on without proper road condition and safety measures.Huge toll collection from common citizen whereas number of vehicle is raising day by day.Actually when number of vehicle increase day by day toll should be reduced every year.Its nothing but Loot by Politician & Private companies Chandrshekhar Kulkarni

Frank Elias

3 years ago

Kindly persuade and assist the families of the ad professionals of Pune to sue the NHAI & Reliance Infra, also individuals who are directly or indirectly responsible for this tragedy. BBC had a series of documented articles on the road accidents in India which had said that there are a 100,000 deaths annually on the roads of India which is more than the combined deaths on the roads of the rest of the world. It was also attributed to poor design and lack of safety features & signs by the civic authorities, police, infrastructure companies, etc.


3 years ago

We can take action against both public servants as well as politicians but the private companies seem to be above the law in recent times.



In Reply to SUJIT KATYAL 3 years ago

The so called Private companies are actually owned by Politicians.

sanjay ranade

3 years ago

I travel on this road every for last 11 years.The old bridge is about to collapse any time.around 15 boards saying"work in Progress"by Brahmaputra Infrastructure limited were placed on the old bridge.No work has been done on the bridge in last one year.The road condition is pathetic.The lights inside the twin tunnel which is around 1.5KM long are never "ON".There is evry possibility that further fatal accidents may take place in this stretch any time.The Toll collection needs to be stopped and timely completion of road widening project needs to be ensured.For any delay a hefty fine needs to be imposed on the agency which is collecting TOLL everyday from tens of thousands of vehicles

Nifty and Sensex may dip before the next upmove: Tuesday closing report

NSE Nifty may come down to 6,160, before moving higher

In a sideways session, a contrast to yesterday’s, Nifty and Sensex seesawed through Tuesday. The markets opened strong and managed to stay in the green for almost the entire period. Sometime after mid-day, the markets dipped into the red, only for a short time. Bulls hungrily bought the dip and pushed the market higher again. After that, it was back to what happened in the morning—a choppy sideways move.


The Sensex opened at 20,870 and hit a high of 20,934 soon after. Then it trended down to a low of 20,828 before rebounding to end the day at 20,890 (up 40.08 points or 0.19%). Similarly, the Nifty opened at 6,197, hit a high of 6,212, then trended down to the intra-day low of 6,180 before closing at 6,203. (up 14 points or 0.23%).


Except for pharma, FMCG, media and public sector enterprises, all sectoral indices were in the green.


Of the 50 stocks on the Nifty, 24 ended in the green, implying that the strength is not broad-based. The top five gainers were Hindalco (4.33%); Jindal Steel (4.00%); PNB (3.93%); JP Associates (3.11%) and State Bank of India (3.04%). The top five losers were BPCL (-2.11%); Sesa Sterlite (-1.78%); Power Grid (-1.40%); HDFC Bank (-1.28%) and Tata Steel (-1.22%).


Of the 1,229 stocks on the NSE, 591 rose, 573 fell while 65 remained unchanged.


According to CLSA, an investment firm, fixed investment to GDP has declined over the years, indicating that fewer enterprises are investing back into the economy, in terms of manufacturing and capital expansion. This is not a very promising sign. At the same time, the government announced no plans to remove short term capital gains tax on FIIs, because of their desperation for foreign capital to shore up current account deficit.

Except for Taiwan, Korea and India, all Asian markets were trending down. All markets in Europe were in the red as well.


Meanwhile in the United States, the markets reacted late in the session with a sharp sell-off after Carl Icahn, activist investor, said that the markets would drop sharply soon. He said that price gains had outpaced the underlying improvement in the global economy. Earlier, S&P went above 1,800, a psychological milestone while Dow Jones passed 16,000 for the first time. The US futures were seen trading down during early trade.


SEBI suspends Bubna Stock Broking's certificate for three months

Bubna Stock Broking, now known as Sunbright Stock Broking, traded in 27.46 lakh shares and had contributed in a significant way in raising share price of GR Industries during January 2004 to 28 February 2005, SEBI said

Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has suspended certificate of registration of Bubna Stock Broking Services Ltd (now known as Sunbright Stock Broking Ltd) for three months.


SEBI said its investigation in the scrip of GR Industries and Finance Ltd during 1 January 2004 to 28 February 2005 revealed that four stock brokers, Shyamlal Sultania, Ashok Kumar Kayan, M Bhiwaniwala & Co and Bubna Stock Broking had traded substantially in the shares of the company. Their cumulative trades accounted for 83.30% of the total traded volumes in the scrip at Calcutta Stock Exchange (CSE) during the investigation period.


Bubna Stock Broking traded in 27.46 lakh shares of the company and had contributed in a significant way in raising share price of GR Industries, during the period under investigation, SEBI said.


Rajeev Kumar Agarwal, whole time member of SEBI, in his order said, "I have considered the submission made by the noticee (Bubna Stock Broking) with regard to past actions taken against it. The enforcement action against the noticee in the earlier cases also indicates that the noticee has committed repeated default. I note that the prohibited activities and types of contraventions as found by the designated authority in this matter definitely have potential to disturb the market integrity and disturb the fair, equitable and efficient functioning of securities market. ...considering the facts and circumstances of this case and taking into account the interests of the investors, suspension of certificate of registration of the noticee for three months will be commensurate with the contraventions found in this matter."


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