Calcutta, April 1: A small-time contractor with no experience of flyover construction laid the casting deck of a part of the Vivekananda Road flyover on the night of March 30, within hours of which the 40-metre stretch came crashing down.
Meet Rajat Baksi, owner of Sandhyamani Projects Ltd and cousin of Trinamul Congress leader Sanjay Baksi whose wife Smita is the MLA from Jorasanko.
IVRCL, the Hyderabad-based company that received the flyover contract in 2009, had engaged Sandhyamani Projects as a sub-contractor in 2011. But it was only two years later, in 2013, that Rajat's company got its certificate of enlistment, a mandatory clearance to be part of any construction project, said a Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) source.
The involvement of Sandhyamani Projects in the flyover construction has surprised independent engineers as sub-contractors are hired only after checking their credentials.
"Ideally, the sub-contractors should have the necessary experience in handling similar projects," said a senior engineer of a construction major.
No one in the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), the agency responsible for the project, would answer how Rajat got the job despite his inexperience. IVRCL officials, three of whom were arrested today and charged with "murder", were not available for comment.
While the reasons for Rajat getting the work are shrouded in mystery, a glimpse of how similar contracts are awarded in Bengal was provided by Narada News, which recently showed images resembling certain Trinamul leaders accepting bribes.
In a video Narada uploaded yesterday, a person who looks like former transport minister Madan Mitra is heard claiming that even road projects under the public works department are awarded after consulting him.
Similarly, urban development minister Firhad Hakim, whose uncut video was uploaded this evening, was heard prodding his party colleague and MLA Iqbal Ahmed to explore the option of executing CMDA projects.
The Baksi family's political clout is well known. Sanjay Baksi not only has access to all the key people in the administration but also to Trinamul royalty.
Rajat, however, said over the phone: "Sanjay Baksi happens to be my uncle's (father's elder brother) son," adding that his cousin had no role in his getting the business. But he could not explain how his fledgling company was selected for the work.
When The Telegraph asked Sanjay Baksi about his association with Rajat, he said: "If someone in the family commits a theft, I cannot be termed a thief."
Was he implying that his cousin, a "syndicate organiser", was guilty of wrongdoing? "We are a very reputable family in north Calcutta and no one in our family is involved in the syndicate business," Sanjay shot back.
Rajat's office, set up after Sandhyamani Projects was empanelled as a sub-contractor, at 51A Girish Park (North) is in the neighbourhood of his cousin's home.
"He told us he was Sanjay Baksi's relative and needed an office to look after his work at the flyover site. So, he took the plot on lease," said M. Chatterjee, the owner of the address.
Opposition parties were quick to refer to Sanjay's connections with decision-makers in government while explaining the possible reasons for Rajat landing the job.
CPM central committee member Shyamal Chakraborty said: "The sub-contractor involved in construction work for the flyover is related to Sanjay Baksi. This is a clear case of nepotism by Firhad Hakim, who heads the CMDA."
Hakim denied having any role in selecting sub-contractors for CMDA projects. "Why would I have a role in selecting sub-contractors? And I didn't even know that Sanjay Baksi's cousin was selected as a sub-contractor," Hakim said.
Chakraborty added: "It also seems money changed hands in getting the contracts awarded and one won't be surprised if the beneficiary is a powerful Trinamul leader who controls syndicate operators across the state."
Some senior officers this newspaper spoke to said files related to projects needed clearance from departments like transport, urban development, municipal affairs as well as the CMC.
"If speedy clearance of a file can be ensured by roping in a sub-contractor recommended by a minister, any contractor would do that," said an official, hinting at one possible way Rajat might have won the flyover work.