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Corruption in Pune civic corridors an open secret

Opposition along with activists alleged that certain firms were being offered preferential treatment while allocating the contract

pune Updated: Aug 05, 2017 14:31 IST
Abhay Khairnar
The cancellation of the 24x7 water supply tenders is the second instance that the ruling party has been forced to scrap the tenders in the PMC.
The cancellation of the 24x7 water supply tenders is the second instance that the ruling party has been forced to scrap the tenders in the PMC.(HT File Photo)

The latest decision by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to cancel tenders of Rs.3,300 crore in the 24x7 water supply scheme following allegations of ‘fixing’, deliberate cost escalation and favouritism once again points to the serious issue of corruption in municipal corporations.

On Thursday, the PMC commissioner Kunal Kumar cancelled the tenders after the opposition along with activists alleged that certain firms were being offered preferential treatment while allocating the contract at far higher price than the estimated cost.

The growing chorus against the manner in which the work was being allocated, forced chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to intervene in the issue and instruct the municipal commissioner to scrap the tender process. He will, now, carry out a new tender process for the scheme.

The fact remains that a high degree of corruption in civic corridors is a sad reality. While the building permission department of the civic bodies is the most corrupt in the civic body, it is an open secret that ‘kickbacks’ to politicians and the civic staff is a routine affair.

“In the past too, on several occasions, the unholy nexus between politicians, officials and private contractors have come to fore,” said activist Vivek Velankar while speaking to Hindustan Times. A case in point is the high value tender of the Rs.350 crore for Adoptive Traffic Control being cancelled after allegations of favouritism earlier in July.

According to activists, corruption is rampant at the level of corporators and administrative staff.

In the current financial year itself, six employees from the PMC were suspended after being nabbed for accepting bribes. In the neighbouring Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) too, another five of six suspended employees were caught by the anti-corruption bureau in recent months while accepting bribes. In one case, a complaint was lodged with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) which in turn directed investigations into the matter.

It is an accepted fact that little gets passed or cleared in municipal corporations without giving a bribe. There are many middle men working in the municipal corporations who play the crucial role in moving files from one table to the other.

The BJP which has projected itself as a ‘clean’ party, won a clear majority in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad for the first time in the history of the civic body. Although the party branded itself as ‘party with a difference’ which promised transparency and clean governance at the grassroots, the ground reality in municipal corporations has not changed.

The cancellation of the 24x7 water supply tenders is the second instance that the ruling party has been forced to scrap the tenders in the PMC after a hue and cry was raised by the opposition. Opposition party leader Chetan Tupe said that BJP promised for transparent governance but it is violating many legal processes in the PMC.

Tupe said the tender for Katraj – Kondhwa road showed a cost escalation of 36%. It was approved by the ruling BJP with a thumping majority, but scrapped after the Congress and NCP pointed to the possibility of a scam.

Tupe said that in the case of the adaptive traffic control tender, the cost was brought down from Rs.350 crore to Rs.292 crore after the opposition raised an alarm.

Congress leader Arvind Shinde said the cartel mechanism was clearly visible in the tendering process for the 24x7 water scheme.

BJP leader and standing committee chairman Murlidhar Mohol rejected the allegations made by the opposition parties. Mohol said that the BJP was bringing more transparency in the PMC, which was earlier missing. The opposition parties themselves are accepting that the BJP is cancelling the tenders which are above the estimated cost. It proves that whenever BJP finds something wrong, it revises its decision.

Though the BJP had claimed that it will bring transparency in the municipal corporations, on ground the situation is different. It is a well known fact in the municipal corporations that no tenders would get passed in the standing committee without giving any percentage. All the ex chairman’s of the standing committees are also accepting it off the record. Now a days, there is a new trend in the PMC, wherein the elected members do not allow other contractors to work in their wards and only force them to get municipal work to their workers. Some of the contractors are also from the criminal background.

Municipal commissioner Kunal Kumar and mayor Mukta Tilak are of the view that there is no cartel in the tender process but as the administration thinks that after GST, the project cost would come down, it scrapped the 24x7 water supply project.

PCMC municipal commissioner Sravan Hardikar said that the administration is taking various strict measures to bring down the corruption and warned that strict action would be taken against them. It is also a good sign that the people are coming forward and filing complaints with the ACB for corruption in the municipal corporations.

Civic activists criticised the municipal corporation for cancelling the tender process. Civic activist Vivek Velenkar, Jugal Rathi, Vishwas Sahastrabuddhe and Prashant Inamdar demanded the chief minister to recover the interest cost of the loans from officials and elected members who had given the nod to borrow the municipal bonds. The Rs.200 crore raised by the PMC can bring in Rs.3 lakh interest daily.