Victims of BMC job racket speak out: Death threats, sexual harassment, bribes... all for a sweeper's job
Hundreds of BMC staffers are being investigated after mid-day broke the story about the recruitment scam in which many civic employees had landed their jobs by impersonating a dead or retired staffer, cheating scores of people out of a chance to earn their livelihood.
This paper spoke to two such women who have spent years fighting for jobs only to be humiliated — one BMC staffer’s widow was asked to perform sexual favours or pay Rs 10 lakh, while another began to receive death threats after she learnt that although two of her family members were deceased, their pay slips were being picked up by strangers.
Dead uncle, alive in BMC
Almost all of Harsha Heliya’s family is employed at the BMC; at least two generations have earned their livelihood working as sweepers at the corporation. Her uncle and grandmother were both sweepers at the D-ward.
When her uncle, Praveen, died in 1994, her brother and one of their cousins applied for the job on compassionate grounds, but both were refused the opportunity.
Nine months ago, Harsha Heliya learnt that her uncle’s identity and job had been hijacked by one Nirmala Jogadia, the wife of Kunal Jogadia, the agent who was caught on tape selling BMC jobs. The Heliya family had been fighting for that job since 1994. Pic/Onkar Devlekar
The family was shocked when they learnt that, according to the records, their uncle Praveen was still alive and on the job. After a little digging, they were even more dismayed to learn that his identity had been hijacked by one Nirmala Jogadia — the wife of Kunal Jogadia, who has been arrested for his role in the scam.
“Kunal has been committing the crime for so many years. He is in no way related to us, but nine months ago, I learnt through my friends that he had fraudulently employed his wife Nirmala using my uncle’s name,” said Harsha, who lodged a complaint in the matter last week.
“A sweeper gets more than Rs 15,000 a month. My brother should have had this job. Instead, he is now earning Rs 1,000 a month as a courier boy. We have been fighting this injustice since 1994,” she added.
As if this was not enough, even her grandmother’s job had been usurped. Her grandmother, Maghubai, had retired with instructions that she did not want a pension or another relative to get her job on compassionate grounds.
Her family honoured her wishes and did not apply for the job, but learnt that an absolute stranger had hijacked Maghubai’s name and job and was drawing her salary — even after the real Maghubai’s death.
When she began her inquiry into the issue, Harsha and her family began to receive death threats. They would not only get threat calls, but were also followed by goons on a couple of occasions.
“Some six months ago, as we were leaving the BMC D-ward, some goons started abusing us and they even followed us, but we managed to escape in a taxi. The next day, I got threat calls, after which I registered a complaint at the Tardeo police station,” said Harsha.
The number of arrests in the case has now gone up to five, with the Crime Branch Unit 3 having nabbed the assistant chief supervisor of the D-ward, identified as Devji Premji Rathod (52).
Investigations had revealed that Rathod would clear all the forged documents in the scam before handing them over to his superiors so the impostors could be hired. He would get Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 for each fake file that he passed, and cops allege that he has been involved in the racket since the last five years.
A Crime Branch officer said, “Rathod would claim that the documents had been verified and submit them to his superiors for signature.” As mid-day had reported yesterday, four others had been arrested on Tuesday night, including the agent, Kunal Jogadia, who was also caught on tape striking a deal to sell a sweeper’s job for Rs 9 lakh.
During the course of investigations, the cops learnt that the racketeers had even forged the police verification documents. “The accused would forge the documents and claim that they had attained verification from Mazgaon police station, which doesn’t even exist. For the recruits, they also provided SSC and HSC certificates from a Byculla school that had closed down five years ago,” added an officer.
Sexual favours for BMC job
Sharda, a 31-year-old widow of a BMC sweeper (name changed), has been fighting for a job since her husband passed away in 2005. Devastated by her husband’s loss, Sharda’s life quickly spiralled downwards as she discovered that there was no job waiting for her at the BMC.
Sharda was thrown out of her home by her in-laws, who kept her son with them and have not even allowed her to contact him. It was to win her son back that she started visiting the D-ward nearly every day, in hopes of finally scoring the job her husband had held. But the only thing she got from the BMC was further humiliation.
Sharda holds a picture of her deceased husband, who was a sweeper in the BMC’s D-ward. Since his death in 2005, she has had to face sexual harassment and demands for bribes in her quest for a job. Pic/Onkar Devlekar
“From the first day I started going to the ward office asking for the job, the officials demanded money from me. The first time, they demanded Rs 5,000. Now they are asking for R10 lakh for a job that should belong to me anyway,” Sharda told mid-day.
On three occasions, the officials allegedly also asked her to perform sexual favours in return for the job. “Some of those officials live in my locality, so whenever I would pass their lane, they would pass lewd comments, but I never reacted. Now that the scam has been exposed, I hope I will finally get my job,” she added.
She had complained to the police about the scam in October, and had also told the cops about the sexual harassment. Both she and Harsha also contacted the Consumer Social Work Sanstha, which eventually blew the lid off the scam last month, and also carried out a sting operation last week to expose the culprits.