Kerala Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested four persons on Friday, including the former Public Works Department Secretary TO Sooraj, in relation to finding cracks in the Palarivattom flyover in Kochi which was inaugurated about two years ago.
Apart from Sooraj, the other three arrested are Sumit Goel, Projects MD of RDS, a construction company; Benny Paul, former MD of Kitco, which provided technical expertise for the project; and PD Thankachan, Assistant General Manager of the Roads and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala Ltd. (RBDCK), a subsidiary of Kerala PWD.
In October 2018, the Ministry of Road Transport Highways had detected cracks on the girders and pillars of the flyover located on the NH66 bypass that cuts through Palarivattom in Kochi. The cracks were detected just two years after the flyover was inaugurated in 2016, indicating serious lapses in the structureâ€™s construction.
In May 2019, a team of structural engineers from IIT Chennai, after a detailed inspection of the flyover, concluded that major errors during the construction phase resulted in the cracks in the structure. It was then decided that exhaustive repair work would be undertaken in two phases - the final phase beginning from September. Traffic would also be disallowed on the flyover during the repair.
The expert team from IIT found that the cracks on the pillars and girders were primary due to inadequate use of cement and steel during construction. According to reports, this will be rectified using Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer or Carbon Fibre wrapping.
Sooraj has reportedly denied the allegations of his involvement, and said that he had only issued the Government Order for the flyover as the then PWD Secretary under the Sustainable and Planned Effort to Ensure Infrastructure Development (SPEEID) programme.
The flyover was contracted to New Delhi based RDS Projects Limited, that built the structure with Kitco and RBDCK being roped in for technical support and design.
Political leaders have also blamed the PWD departmentâ€™s slack supervision for the shoddy and unsafe construction of the structure that is in the heart of Kochi.
The officers investigating the issue submitted the FIR at the Vigilance Court in Muvattupuzha. Although the investigating officials have found that 17 persons were allegedly involved in the scam, there will be more clarity on their roles following a detailed probe.
So far, only the four persons who have been arrested have been named accused in the case.
The report by Vigilance Ernakulam Unit DYSP R Ashok highlighted that the possibility of reconstructing the flyover must be considered, as the structure currently poses a threat to human life. The report also reportedly stated that if the structure was not found to be stable despite the maintenance work which is undertaken by IIT Chennai, then the flyover should be rebuilt.