Construction company charged in deadly India overpass collapse

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  • Indian police have filed “culpable homicide” charges against India-based contractor IVRCL and detained several of the company’s personnel in relation to a Kolkata overpass collapse that killed at least 23 people last week, according to The New York Times.
  • As investigators search for the cause of the collapse — which also injured at least 85 — and as crews attempt to clear the pile of steel and concrete, rescue workers said they have pulled the last body from the debris, The Times reported.
  • Contractor IVRCL is currently barred from bidding on projects in other Indian states and has been terminated from projects for unsatisfactory execution, sources told The Times. Its financial condition has also come under scrutiny as its debtors have taken over IVRCL as repayment for what the company owes them.

According to The Times, the deadly collapse has caused authorities to revisit the company’s performance on problem projects in other Indian states and has left some asking why IVRCL, which has also been charged with criminal breach of trust, was allowed to bid on the Kolkata overpass. IVRCL performs irrigation, road, mining and power work in India, Sri Lanka, the Middle East and Africa.

Satish Agnihotri, chairman of the publicly owned company that works under the Indian Railways Ministry, told The Times that IVRCL is “a major defaulter” and that, in the past three years, it had terminated all contracts with them. Agnihotri also said that IVRCL is not permitted to bid on work for two years from the date of its last termination and that his company had to cash in performance guarantees (similar to performance bonds) for many of their projects.

Chandreshwar Prasad Singh, minister of urban development, housing and transportation in the state of Jharkhand, said he believes that other Indian states should honor the blacklisting and not award any work to IVRCL, but analysts said that projects like the overpass usually go to the lowest bidder as long as they meet basic requirements.

In another major construction catastrophe that saw the builder blamed, the Lekki Gardens residential building collaspe last month and killed a reported 34 people near Lagos, Nigeria. Nigerian officials said at the time that illegal construction was the likely culprit, as the owners allegedly exceeded the number of approved floors despite authorities sealing off the work area and stopping construction work.

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