Beldars (mud diggers), chowkidars (watchmen), and mistries (masons), who can’t even read English or draw a basic building outline, have been promoted to the rank of junior engineer (JE) in the public works department (building and roads) over meritorious candidates.
Most of the 84 people promoted as JE on the basis of a faulty seniority list do not even hold any technical diploma, and some are mere matriculates; and it happened when the department did not even have the sanctioned posts to make room for promotions. As the matter has reached the Punjab and Haryana high court, the department has asked all the promoted JEs to show cause why action shouldn’t be taken against them for furnishing wrong information for the sake of seniority.
In one of the worst cases, a temporary beldar in the PWD irrigation department, who was later made mason, has become JE. “How will people who don’t even know how to sign documents be able to read technical drawings of buildings, take critical decisions and fill the measurement book? You can imagine the kind of roads, bridges and buildings they’ll make,” said a senior official in the PWD, requesting anonymity. He has even claimed that most of these employees were promoted because they were close to politicians, while genuine candidates were ignored.
Of the joint quota of 4% posts for these promotions, officials gave a per cent each to munshi, mistry, inspector and surveyor categories. Some masons and beldars got themselves promoted quickly as mistry or munshi to be eligible to become JE. On the other hand, the contenders who had cleared the departmental test were denied promotion. Candidates Ved Parkash, Gurcharan Singh, Balwinder Kumar, Om Parkash, Bhushan Lal, and Ashok Kumar, whose merit was ignored, filed a joint writ in the high court, on which the court has sought a reply from the Punjab government by March 25.
Since 2002, the seniority list has been revised six times to promote the favorites over deserving employees. Asked to react, PWD chief engineer (headquarters) GR Bains said the department was waiting for replies to the showcause notices. “So far, the officials dealing with promotions deny any wrongdoing but I am looking into the matter,” he said.