Pune civic body cleaners dump their brooms for desk jobs

Jun 23, 2014, 14:15 IST | Niranjan Medhekar

PMC's conservancy staff routinely turn down their sweeping and housekeeping jobs to favour deskwork, forcing the cash-strapped authority to spend lakhs on contract labourers to do their work

The clambering aspirations of a post-polls India seem reflected in the administrative goings-on in the Pune Municipal Corporation. The civic body’s conservancy staff have been declining to fulfil their chores, because they want the comfort of a clerical job.

Contract labourers
Doing someone else’s job: Contract labourers have been appointed by the PMC to fill in for its conservancy staff who have abandoned their duty. Pic/Mohan Patil.  

Many class IV staffers who are supposed to do field work – sweeping roads, cleaning and dusting civic offices, unclogging drains etc — prefer to stay put at desks in various civic departments. This forces the PMC to outsource their share of work to contractual laborers, and footing an additional wages tab for chores its finicky employees are already being paid for.

Contract labourer

The practice has been going on for years, and has depleted the PMC’s coffers of huge funds so far, sources reveal. Conservative estimates say the figure runs into tens of lakhs, considering the Rs 5,000-7,000 monthly salary each contract labour gets. This trend only weighs down a cash-strapped corporation struggling to finish public works.

Filling in for the deviant class: Since PMC’s class IV employees have deviated to clerical jobs, contract labourers have
been keeping the city’s streets and civic offices clean. Pic/Mohan Patil

Though the trend runs against regulations, many civic employees pull strings and use political clout, to ease into clerical jobs.

When this correspondent visited the office of city’s acting health chief Dr S T Pardeshi yesterday, one such class IV employee was seen requesting him to be delegated desk work, though his actual job is the upkeep of a civic clinic in Somvar Peth area.

After the staffer had left the office, Pardeshi told mid-day, “This person’s work is to open the clinic every day and look after its routine maintenance. But as you could see, he was requesting for clerical work. He came with recommendation from the corporator,” Pardeshi said.

Asked how many such conservancy staffers are doing clerical jobs in the health department, Pardeshi said, “I directed all my officials not to appoint class IV employees on desk duty. But still there are four such employees in one of my sub-departments.”

The situation isn’t restricted to the health department, but pervades all of PMC’s wards, where the designated work of the staffers is to maintain cleanliness in the whole of the ward area.

Other officials said a crunch in the clerical staff is also responsible for these changes in duties. “In my office, five or six class IV employees are looking after all the computer- and typing-related work. I don’t have an option but to continue with them, as I am short of staff,” a ward officer said on the condition of anonymity.

Round it goes
In any case, this further dispossesses a money-starved civic body. It has had to appoint wage labourers through private contractors, to ensure the cleanliness of the city and its own offices. But sources clued in with the process said there’s profiteering involved from politicians. 

A prominent civic union’s leader told us on the condition of anonymity, “According to the data I had sought under the Right To Information Act, nearly 1,500 contractual workers are currently assigned in various corporation offices and establishments. When PMC already has a work force of class IV employees, what is the logic behind spending lakhs of rupees on salaries of this outsourced staff?”

“In one PMC hospital, two theatre attendants have changed their work profile and are currently doing clerical jobs. The contractors who provide the workers have close links with councillors. “So i’s a circular nexus: staffers come with recommendation letters from corporators, who then ensure that their work is outsourced to a contractor for a profit. The authority needs to check this malpractice,” the leader added.

Even though seeking change in their work profile has become a trend for class IV  employees in the corporation, PMC deputy commissioner (general) Mangesh Joshi said, “According to set rules and regulations no class IV employee can do clerical work. According to my information numbers of such employees are very low.”

The number of contract labourers that the PMC has had to appoint; they draw a monthly salary between Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,000

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