After every heavy downpour in the city, the muck in the drains starts to overflow. And though the civic body is always blamed for doing shoddy work, but the contractors who have repeatedly done unsatisfactory work are forgotten.
In the past 10 years, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has spent more than Rs 151 crore on desilting drains. But it has not blacklisted a single contractor for unsatisfactory work. This information was obtained through a Right To Information (RTI) query filed by activist Chetan Kothari.
The RTI also revealed that the civic body has, till now, imposed penalties of merely Rs 42 lakh on contractors in 10 years.
Officials say this amount is negligible compared to the amount the BMC spends every year. Out of the Rs 1,013 crore allotted to the storm water drain department this year, the civic body spent around Rs 50 crore only on desilting drains.
A senior official of the SWD department said, “Most times, contractors are let go with minor penalties. Because of this casual attitude, they are so brazen about their work that it’s difficult for lower level officials to rope them in.”
The Hindustan Times conducts an audit of the city’s drains every year to gauge the city’s monsoon preparedness. Most of the times, experts invited to conduct the audit find that the desilting of nullahs incomplete. Juhu corporator Adolf D’souza, who was part of the audit panel, said that even blacklisting contractors wouldn’t help.
“Most of them have many different fronts through which they operate. If you blacklist one, they will bag the contract through a different frontal organisation. Civic officials are in complete connivance during such times.”
According to D’souza, the reason most contractors go scot-free is due to lack of supervision.
“Such an arrangement ensures that all parties involved — officials, politicians and contractors — are happy,” he said.
Chandrakant Watve, chief engineer, SWD, said blacklisting is generally the last option. “If we find a contractor being negligent, we issue site memos, show-cause notices and impose penalties. Generally, contractors toe the line after such action.”
However, a senior official, requesting anonymity, said: “The city floods almost every year. This wouldn’t be the case if the contractor had done his job honestly. Since officials are hand-in-glove, blacklisting them becomes difficult.”
Mumbai has more then 200km of major nullahs and 129km of small nullahs. The city has 1,986km of roadside drains, which finally converge into minor nullahs.
The RTI query doesn’t account for the cost of desilting these roadside drains.