UP roof collapse: Contractor admits paying Rs 16 lakh bribe, use of sub-standard material

Express News Service
LUCKNOW: The roof of death that collapsed to claim 25 innocent lives in Muradnagar cremation ground on last Sunday was constructed upon the foundation of corruption, it has emerged. 

Contractor Ajay Tyagi, the main accused in the roof collapse case, spilled the beans about the corrupt deeds of officials in the Muradnagar Municipal Board during police interrogation. Tyagi, arrested on Monday night, was sent to jail on a 14-day judicial remand on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, UP CM Yogi Adityanath had issued orders to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the case.

Besides Tyagi, one of his accomplices Sanjay Garg, roped in for the construction and beautification of the cremation ground, was also arrested on Tuesday and sent to jail. So far, five persons have been arrested.

According to highly-placed police sources, Tyagi claimed that he got the contract for the beautification of cremation ground and construction of the shed there by allegedly paying a bribe of Rs 16 lakh to the Municipal Board officials. The sources claimed that he also conceded that there was an alleged convention of paying around 28-30 per cent commission to get the contract.

The roof had collapsed at around 11:30am at the Ukhlarsi cremation ground, when the last rites of fruit seller Jai Ram, 65, who had died on Saturday night, were being conducted.

ALSO READ | Roof collapse in UP cremation ground: Shocked families prepare for second funeral in two days

Around 50-60 people were present at the funeral. Scores got trapped under the debris and could be rescued only after the local police and administration arrived at the spot. A team of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was also deployed to carry out relief and rescue work at the collapse site.

The Ghaziabad cops had registered a First Information Report (FIR) under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 337 (causing hurt to any person by doing any act rashly or negligently as to endanger human lives), 338 (causing grievous hurt by an act endangering life or personal safety of others), 427 (causing damages) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) of IPC against a number of persons including Muradnagar Municipal Board’s Executive Officer Niharika Singh, JE, supervisor, contractor and others.

Muradnagar Municipal Board’s Executive Officer Niharika Singh Chauhan, JE Chandrapal Singh and supervisor Ashish had been arrested in connection with the mishap on Monday. Tyagi was arrested late Monday night and Sanjay Garg was arrested on Tuesday.

Police sources said Tyagi told the interrogators that he used to run a construction firm — M/S Ajay Tyagi Contractors. He admitted that he got the Rs 55 lakh contract for the beautification of Muradnagar cremation ground and construction of the shed in February 2020 through an online tender process. He allegedly received Rs 26 lakh as the first instalment of the contract amount in March 2020 and the second instalment of Rs 16 lakh in July 2020.

The contractor disclosed to cops that in lieu of getting the contract, he was asked by JE Chandrapal Singh to pay Rs 16 lakh in the office of EO Niharika Singh and he did so, said the sources. Tyagi allegedly claimed that he was supposed to give an advance commission of at least 28-30 per cent to get the contract and get the project money released. He allegedly disclosed that he was given two months’ time to complete the project.

As the time to complete the project was too short, the main accused claimed he had roped in another firm — AS Constructions — owned by his acquaintance Sanjay Garg to meet the deadline. Tyagi allegedly admitted that he had used sub-standard material in the construction of the shed to ensure his margins were not hit.

After Tyagi’s disclosures, many senior officers of the Muradanagar local body and Ghaziabad administration are now on the radar.

The state government has meanwhile directed the Ghaziabad district administration to provide fee exemption to the children of those families who lost their earning members in the mishap. The Ghaziabad DM and local MLA handed over the keys of a house to the family of one Robin who lost his life in the mishap.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had issued a notice earlier to the UP government seeking its explanation in four weeks’ time.