Court-Monitored Probe Demanded By Engineers Over Substandard Work At Pune Metro Stations
Pune, 6th April 2023: Two Pune-based structural engineers, Narayan Kochak and Shirish Khasbardar, have filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the Maharashtra Metro Rail Corporation Limited (MMRCL), alleging inferior quality of construction at metro stations in Pune that have endangered public safety.
The PIL has been filed against ten respondents including the MMRCL, Union of India, State of Maharashtra, Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS), and COEP Technological University. Kochak and Khasbardar inspected Vanaz, Anand Nagar, Nal Stop, and Garware Metro stations and found that these stations have been constructed in violation of the standard engineering practices which are necessary to ensure the overall safety and stability of the structures. They sought a court-monitored probe by a panel under the supervision of a retired high court judge, alleging lapses and gross negligence due to massive corruption on the part of the respondents that have led to the substandard quality of construction.
The petitioners made several attempts to bring the glaring and evident lapses to the notice of the concerned authorities, but they did not pay any heed and allowed the operations of Metro lines. They pointed to a lack of robust and effective quality assurance and quality control systems. The petitioners submitted that a suggestion was made to the Maha Metro to suspend the operations on the relevant Metro stations and carry out a detailed structural audit.
Maha Metro termed the lapses as ‘poor workmanship’. The petitioners claimed that Maha Metro did accept the gross negligence as observed by them during the survey. However, it termed it to be a case of ‘poor workmanship’ and miserably failed to rectify the said lapses which have led to serious public safety concerns. According to them, the rectification works undertaken by Maha Metro have not adhered to the standard engineering practices.
According to Maha Metro officials, they are aware of the lapses and were working on the same. There were minor deficiencies, and they have rectified all of them. They received the audit report from COEP on March 9, which states that the structure is completely safe.
According to the petitioners, they observed that floating columns have been installed, which are prohibited in public structures, particularly in earthquake-prone areas. Many structural members are severely misaligned and also damaged at some stations, giving rise to eccentricities. The rectification undertaken has been observed to be in the nature of welding at certain specific locations, structures have been partly welded and partly bolted together at the same joints, which is contrary to standard engineering and design practices. The rectifications have been carried out in an evidently unscientific manner. However, even after the cosmetic rectifications, the said defects remain unaddressed in entirety. It is surprising that the Maha Metro is claiming that the COEP has issued a report stating that the structures are safe.
The Maha Metro had announced that the work on six stations –Deccan, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Udyan, Pune Municipal Corporation, civil court, Mangalwar Peth (RTO), Pune Railway station, and Ruby Hall Clinic — would be finished by the end of March, and the route from Garware College to Ruby Hall Clinic will commence from April 1.
The petitioners alleged serious lapses in the structures, including weak welding/bolting and mismatching alignments. The Maha Metro, however, says things have been looked into and taken care of. The commissioner of CMRS issued commencement certificates for operations despite incomplete work at the relevant Metro stations.
The first hearing of the PIL is scheduled for April 17. Advocates Pratik Rajopadhye and Ashish Patankar represented the petitioners.
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