| 25 Feb 2024
All India RadioÆs failure to act on time in Cooch BeharÆs tower incident led to Rs 84.92 lakh loss: CAG

NEW DELHI: The Indian Government lost Rs 84.92 lakh because of the collapse of the FM tower at Cooch Behar in West Bengal because the Eastern Zonal Office of All India Radio (AIR) failed to call the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (Hyderabad) for timely rectification of the FM Tower which had tilted within the guarantee period.

Under the terms of the tender, it was obligatory on the part of ECIL to rectify the defects that occurred in the tower within 12 months from its installation. But the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) said that the Zonal office failed to impose the conditions of agreement on ECIL for timely rectification of FM Tower which had tilted within the guarantee period. In fact, the Zonal office did not take any action for two years to repair the tower.

The matter was reported by CAG to the ministry in October 2014 but no reply was received till February 2015.

The All India Radio Director General, New Delhi, had sanctioned in October 2003 the project of the radio station with 10 KW FM transmissions and staff quarter facilities at Cooch Behar, West Bengal, for strengthening coverage in the adjoining areas. Administrative approval and expenditure sanction of Rs 2.25 crore for equipment was conveyed by DG AIR in January 2004. The work of supply, erection, testing and commissioning of 100 meter self-supporting FM tower was awarded to ECIL at a cost of Rs 86.48 lakh only in July 2007 since the land for the purpose could not be acquired immediately.

The Additional DG (Engineering) (East Zone), AIR and Doordarshan, Prasar Bharati, Kolkata (Eastern Zonal Office) is entrusted with the work of execution of Plan Projects of All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan in the four eastern states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal. The Eastern Zonal Office is consequently responsible for monitoring and co-ordination of activities for completion of the projects. In terms of provision of the AIR manual, an Installation Officer (IO) from the AIR, East Zone is selected for each project, and is responsible for ensuring proper measurements of the work.

ECIL supplied materials for the tower by March 2008, started the erection of tower in April 2008 and completed it in September 2009. An amount of Rs 80.52 lakh was paid to ECIL till November 2009 for erection of the tower. The Eastern Zonal Office had to take over the tower without the antenna in September 2009 since it could not be supplied by DG AIR, New Delhi.

At the time of taking over, verticality check of the tower was conducted jointly by representatives of ECIL and the IO deputed by the Eastern Zonal Office. The verticality reading showed some variation from 40 meters upwards. This was stated to be within the admissible limit and the IO certified the tower to be in ‘good condition’. The antenna worth Rs 4.40 lakh was mounted on the tower in March 2010, after it was supplied by DG AIR, New Delhi.

The Eastern Zonal Office noticed certain tilt in the upper portion of the tower in April 2010 within the guarantee period of twelve months and requested ECIL in May 2010 to repair the defect in order to save the tower from further damage but the Corporation did not respond despite repeated reminders. Later in March 2011, ECIL agreed to undertake the work on the condition that financial compensation is extended by issuing a work order. No action was taken on the proposal of ECIL and the tower remained in tilted position for two years. Meanwhile, the bank guarantee of Rs 30.29 lakh submitted by ECIL as security deposit expired in August 2011.

The tower finally collapsed in April 2012, rendering the tower and the antenna unusable. DG AIR took up in June 2012 the matter with ECIL for re-erection of the tower without any extra cost. ECIL said the tower was designed to withstand a wind speed of 169 Km per hour and the initial tilt in the tower was caused by heavy storm with a wind speed much higher than the designed capacity. The collapse of the tower was also attributed by ECIL to similar heavy storm. They stated that there was no flaw in workmanship.

However, the Structural Engineering Department of Jadavpur University, Kolkata (JU) on being consulted by Eastern Zonal Office, attributed the collapse of tower to its ‘initially imperfect and eccentric tower structure’ in October 2012. According to JU, Kolkata, “The reduced capacity of stability criterion due to imperfect alignment may be responsible for the failure of the tower”.

Records further revealed that the maximum recorded wind speed by the Cooch Behar observatory when the tilt occurred in the tower and when the tower finally collapsed was in the range of 10 to 20 km per hour - much below the withstanding capacity of the tower for wind speeds of 169 km per hour. The Eastern Zonal Office, Kolkata, while confirming the facts, stated in February 2015 that since the Installation Officer found the verticality of the tower within the limits, the imperfectness and eccentricity of the tower was not noticed by him. They further stated that the storm acted only as external impetus to the collapse of the tower.