Ghaziabad: Ajay Tyagi, the 45-year-old contractor who was arrested on late Monday night in connection with the roof collapse incident at Muradnagar cremation ground, has allegedly told police that he gave a bribe of ₹16 lakh to officials of the Muradnagar Nagar Palika. According to police officials, Tyagi allegedly also said that he used inferior quality material and formed a cartel in order to carry out the work at the cremation ground.

As many as 24 persons were killed in the incident on January 3.

Tyagi, from Morta in Muradnagar and resident of Raj Nagar, was arrested from the canal road area in Muzaffarnagar while he was allegedly trying to flee to Delhi. The police said that he had allegedly fled his house in Raj Nagar without any vehicle and took local transport to reach Hapur and Meerut districts in order to hide himself. The police also arrested Tyagi’s accomplice Sanjay Garg from Ghaziabad.

“He told us that he fled his house around 11.30am on Sunday as soon as he received information about the incident. Then he took lifts in trucks and commercial vehicles and finally reached Muazffarnagar. He said that he bribed officials of the Muradnagar Nagar Palika and paid ₹16 lakh to them from the first instalment for the work that got released in March,” said an investigating officer, adding that a commission of about 28-30% of the tender value was allegedly shelved out as bribe.

The work for construction of shelter at Muradnagar crematorium was tendered to Tyagi in February last year for ₹50 lakh and it was to get complete in 60 days. The work, however, got delayed due to the Covid-induced lockdown, the officials said.

“Tyagi said that he received first instalment of ₹26 lakh in March and another ₹16 lakh in July, and hurried up the work otherwise the funds would have lapsed. So, he said that in order to expedite the work he formed a cartel with two other firms and took up the construction of the shelter. He also told police that there was no need for the design of such shelter at the cremation ground, but the firms inflated bills in order to mint money,” the officer said.

An initial inspection report of the incident site by engineers of the Ghaziabad development authority and the municipal corporation has indicated the use of “inferior quality material” and “design issues” which led to the structural failure.

Based on the statements of Tyagi and Garg, the Ghaziabad police have initiated process for levy of provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act to the ongoing investigation. The police officials said that they are also probing if such malpractices were inherent in other works taken up by the contractor.

“Initially, it has come to light from Tyagi’s statements that he allegedly bribed the officials and resorted to certain practices which led to the roof collapse incident. A departmental inquiry is going on against the officials of the Nagar Palika and we are taking up expert legal opinion to initiate proceedings for corruption,” said Iraj Raja, superintendent of police (rural).

“We are also investigating other persons linked to Tyagi and even those who provided him shelter,” he added.

The investigators also said that they will probe all such malpractices during the ongoing investigation and will also take remand of the three suspects, including executive officer and junior engineer of Nagar Palika, who were arrested on Monday and lodged at Dasna jail.

Officials said that Tyagi, through his firm, was also taking up works with the Ghaziabad municipal corporation and had been a contractor for the past 8-10 years. Several of his photographs with officials also went viral over social media.

“We have a list of about 12 projects costing about ₹7 crore which he is taking up. We have formed a team to check the quality of works and will take action if any issue comes to light,” said MS Tanwar, municipal commissioner.

Tyagi and Garg on Tuesday afternoon were also taken for their medical examination to MMG Hospital before being taken to Ghaziabad district court where Tyagi was attacked with slippers by a woman, identified as Poonam Pal, whose husband, son and son-in-law were severely injured during the roof collapse incident.

“Most of the people who were killed in the incident were our family members, relatives and neighbours. I want the police to hand over the suspect to us. Any compensation cannot bring back 24 people who died due to his negligence and malpractices,” Poonam said.

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