Machine collapses at Nashik Phata: Three Metro officials booked for ‘negligence’, safety under scanner

A 75-tonne machine came crashing down at an under-construction Metro site on Saturday. Express

Police have filed a case against three MahaMetro officials, including the rig machine operator, on charges of negligence, days after a 75-tonne machine came crashing down at an under-construction Metro site in Nashik Phata. Police have said that MahaMetro, the agency in charge of the Pune Metro project, was negligent while carrying out the pillar-laying work at the site.

"Prima facie, we find that MahaMetro had not taken adequate precautions while executing the work at Nashik Phata on Saturday," Police Inspector P B Gofane of Bhosari police station told The Indian Express.

The FIR was filed under Section 336, on charges of 'endangering life or personal safety of others', on Monday. Gofane said initial investigation has established that MahaMetro had failed to take the steps necessary to ensure that public life was not endangered while carrying out this particular work. "They have told us that the machine weighed 75 tonnes…The machine fell on its right side. Had it fallen on the left side, lives would have been lost as motorists and two-wheeler riders were at the site," he said.

The police inspector said there was no fire engine at the site. "In case people get trapped under the machine, a fire engine is mandatory to rescue them. But the officials did not ensure the presence of a fire engine," he said. The police have also filed a case against the three officials for damage caused to electric poles and piders.

Gofane said after a thorough investigation, police will arrest the three officials. "We are told that the officials belong to the contractors," he said.

MahaMetro Managing Director Brijesh Dixit said the agency was investigating what happened at Nashik Phata on Saturday. "Our investigation is underway," he said.

"If there was negligence, we will fine the contractors," said Dixit, adding that MahaMetro would oppose the FIR in case they found that the officials were not negligent.

On the day of the incident, MahaMetro officials had said the incident took place as the machine operator could not gauge the sogginess of the soil that caved in.

Metro spokesperson Hemant Sonawane said they were investigating allegations by police, that proper precautions were not put in place.
"We will come to know about it after our internal probe is over," he said.

Sonawane said the operator of the pilling rig, who has also been named in the FIR, actually saved lives by alerting the staff. "When he realised the machine he was steering was collapsing, he alerted the staff nearby. The staff stopped the traffic at some distance, and this helped save lives," he said, expressing surprise that the operator has also been charged.

Sonawane said the driver handling the pilling rig machine was experienced and "he had carried out over 100 foundation laying works on Metro corridors," he said. "If the work has been carried out at 100 spots smoothly, it means all precautions had been put in place," he said, adding that it would not be practical to close down the entire road when Metro work was underway.

MahaMetro has come under severe criticism over the incident. The NCP held a protest at the site on Sunday and demanded action against "negligent officials". Sanjoy Waghere, NCP's Pimpri-Chinchwad unit president, said, "There is fear in the minds of people about Metro work. The Nashik Phata incident should serve as a lesson for Metro officials. Officials should ensure that no such incident takes place in the future".