Mumbai: Ministers, MPs, MLAs lobby for their men in key departments

An RTI request has revealed that various officials asked for transfers to the lucrative Building Proposal dept and SRA by bringing in recommendation letters from politicians; civic chief says such letters do not matter

Prominent political leaders, from Union Ministers to MLAs, have lobbied to put their men in key positions in crucial departments dealing with real estate projects both in the civic body and the slum rehabilitation body.

Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar Harish Rawat Vilas Khilari
NCP water resources minister Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar, then union minister Harish Rawat (centre) are some of the politicians who wrote recommendation letters for getting engineers transferred to Building Proposal department and SRA. (Extreme right) Vilas Khilari was arrested in October for taking a bribe. File pics 

The information came to the fore after an activist filed a Right to Information (RTI) request under the RTI Act. Many such letters request a transfer for engineers to the Building Proposal department, a key department that is entrusted with approving building projects in the city.

Documents accessed under the RTI Act showed that in 2010, then NCP MLA Shivendra Raje Bhonsle and then NCP water resources minister Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar had written letters in favour of transferring Vilas Khilari, then with the Building Construction department, to the Building Proposal department.

Khilari had two other men vouching for him Member of Legislative Council Mukund Belkar and Anand Rayte, secretary of Anil Desai, the chairman of the legislative council.

These four letters had been sent to then civic chief Swadheen Kshatriya, who had refused to accede to the requests saying that Khilari had not cleared a mandatory test required to enter the department. He later cleared the test and was posted to the BP department in 2012. The Anti-Corruption Bureau recently caught him and his two colleagues for taking a bribe of Rs 15 lakh (see box).

The others
Khilari’s is not the only case. In March, 2010, Congress MLA Praniti Shinde wrote requesting that Dattatray Erande, assistant engineer, S ward, be transferred to BP department’s city or eastern office. In another case, sub-engineer Pankaj Wagh from Roads department procured a letter from then Rajya Sabha member Bharat Kumar Raut on October 31, 2013, asking for the same.

Even union ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) from other states have showered their ‘blessings’. In November, 2012, Yashvir Singh, then MP from Nagina, Uttar Pradesh, and in January, 2013, then Union Minister for Water Resources Harish Rawat had asked that Prakash Vichare, who was then with the BP department, be transferred to another key body, the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA). Rawat is now chief minister of Uttarakhand.

RTI activist Jitendra Ghadge, whose RTI application in September 2014 revealed these exchanges, slammed the corporation. He said, “Its shocking to see even central ministers are sending recommendations to BMC. This is why there is rampant corruption in SRA and Building Proposal departments.

This kind of fearless behaviour by these Engineers is due to blessings from big politicians. This needs to stop or we will see more Campa Colas in future.” Civic chief Sitaram Kunte told mid-day, “We don’t have any control over recommendation letters sent by politicians. However, these letters don’t have any bearing on transfers.”

Politician speak
All of the politicians refused any knowledge about the matter, despite the records showing otherwise.

>> Congress MLA Praniti Shinde said, “I don’t know anything about this letter. I don’t have anything do with the person mentioned in the letter.”

>> NCP MLA Shivendra Raje Bhosale said, “I don’t know about Khilari and I’ve not written any letter for this man. Many people come to meet me and a relative of Khilari’s may have come asking for a letter. Even I don’t know anyone in BMC. I am not denying the fact about the letter, but can recall nothing about Khilari.”

>> Ramraje Nimbalkar, now an MLC, said, “I am not aware of any Khilari and don’t know of this recommendation letter.”

>> Former Rajya Sabha MP Bharatkumar Raut said, “Many people come to me. I may have given such a letter for sub-engineers.”

Caught in the act!
On October 20, 2014, the ACB caught Executive Engineer Sunilsingh Rathod, Assistant Engineer Vilas Khilari, Sub-engineer Balaji Biradar from the Building Proposal department, architect Satish Palav and a middleman Narayan Patil, for taking a bribe of R15 lakh for granting an intimation of disapproval for a construction project.

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