Desilting scam rocks Mumbai: 80 BMC officials probed after enquiry

May 16, 2016, 08:30 IST | Tanvi Deshpande

From the 14 who were suspended last year, the number of officials suspected of corruption has gone up to 80, who are now being probed by the BMC's Enquiries Department

Nearly a year after the nullah desilting scam rocked the BMC, it turns out that the rot of corruption might have gone far deeper than anyone anticipated. Investigators are now digging up dirt on almost 80 BMC officials suspected of playing a role in the racket — the largest number of civic officials to face enquiry in a single scam in recent years.

Also read: Mumbai flooded; 2 killed, BMC's claims about rain-ready city washed away

Pics/Satej Shinde

The corporation’s Enquiries Department is probing the suspected engineers and staffers, and those who are found guilty will face a departmental enquiry. This is a far larger number than the 14 tainted officials who were suspended in September last year.

While Chief Engineer (SWD) Laxman Vhatkar refused to comment, a senior civic official said, “We are enquiring the role of around 80 officials. Their involvement is being defined and a chargesheet is being prepared. Once that is done, an officer will be appointed for their departmental enquiry. We still can’t say exactly how many will be found guilty.”

The floods on June 19, 2015, brought the city to its knees. File pic
The floods on June 19, 2015, brought the city to its knees. File pic

Another senior civic official confirmed that while a large number of officials are also under the scanner in the road scam, so far, the nullah desilting scam has thrown up the largest number of officials to face an enquiry in recent times. Officials did not comment on how long it would take to complete the chargesheets.

The scam came to light after several parts of the city came to a standstill on June 19, 2015, due to flooding from the downpour. BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta initiated an enquiry in what later came to be known as the nullah desilting scam. A preliminary enquiry was conducted under Deputy Municipal Commissioner Prakash Patil and another, more detailed probe was carried out under Additional Municipal Commissioner Sanjay Deshmukh last year. After both the reports, the civic body suspended 14 civic officials in September. Among those suspended were Chief Engineer (vigilance) U Murudkar, six sub-engineers, four assistant engineers and three mukadams from the storm water drains department. They were charged with certifying false documents.

Now, the civic Enquiries Department is probing the role of around 80 engineers from the storm water drain (SWD) department and the vigilance department. A total of 250 engineers and staffers work in both departments.

BMC chief says
Municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta said, “I would not like to put a figure to it (number of engineers). Let the probe be complete. Only then will we be able to tell the exact number.”

Road scam
Meanwhile, the civic body’s legal department and counsel have given their go-ahead to send a show-cause notice to tainted contractors in the roads scam. Six contractors were indicted in the scam recently. The civic body is being extra careful this time after its experience in the nullah-desilting scam, when the contractors got away because the corporation did not follow procedure while blacklisting them. The notices will be sent by Tuesday.

Dig deeper, say leaders

Manoj Kotak, BJP group leader
Why is this process so slow? The enquiry has been going on since last year. It should speed up.

Pravin Chheda, Opposition leader
Everybody’s role should be probed, right from the topmost official. Only 14 people were suspended last year. I’m sure there are many more. They should go to the very core of the issue.

Rais Shaikh, SP group leader
There is a lot of pressure on the administration to let go of the tainted, but we will make sure the guilty are punished. The chief engineer of SWD has been spared so far due to political pressure, but it was his department that drafted the tenders. The administration should not spare the big fish.

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