Scams Spark: BMC Probe into Scams Sparks Staff Exodus Edit Title

At least 20 engineers from different municipal departments have quit in past one year.

Greater scrutiny on BMC officials following a series of scams has triggered an exodus of municipal engineers, who are looking for 'safer jobs'.

At least 20 engineers from different BMC divisions have quit or taken voluntary retirement in the past one year. Two executive engineers with the scam-hit stormwater drains department — Pradeep Jaswani and Rajesh Nagrale — put in their papers earlier this month.

The department is under a cloud over Rs 150-crore desilting scam, which forced top officials to suspend 11 engineers, including chief engineer (vigilance) Uday Murudkar, for allegedly certifying bogus documents provided by contractors.

The BMC's roads department is under scanner over a scam in which contractors used substandard material to build or repair thoroughfares. The racket, which runs into several crores, led to suspension of chief engineer (roads) Ashok Pawar.

Around 100 engineers are currently facing inquiries in various scams, and the scrutiny has spooked others. "There is no point in continuing in the BMC. Even if we are clean, there is no guarantee that we will not face a probe," a senior engineer who resigned recently said. "Once an inquiry starts, our reputation is tarnished. It is better to quit and join the private sector, where there is less pressure."

Some engineers quit after 20 years of service in the municipal corporation. They have cited stress and a fear of being falsely implicated in cases as the main reason for leaving. Some junior BMC engineers, who have similar concerns, have turned down promotion to departments that were once most sought after by civic employees.

Some former BMC engineers are now working private developers, while others have joined consultancy firms. "Top officials take all the policy decisions, but we have to face the brunt when a scam comes to light. If there is any problem, we are suspended," said a former engineer with the storm water drains department.

"We have no powers but are held responsible for everything."

A recent BMC circular asked all engineers to make a note of all calls and recommendations they gets from "unconnected parties" about approving or vetoing any development work. Another circular asked engineers with the building proposal department to put on record every redevelopment request.

More than a dozen engineers with the building proposal department and the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) are facing scrutiny after BJP legislator Ameet Satam alleged corruption in the two divisions.

It's not just the fear of prosecution; employees in departments that oversee construction of roads and other public infrastructure have also cited threat of violence for quitting. In February, junior engineer Hemant Chandane was beaten up by a local Shiv Sena activist.

The BMC Engineers' Union blamed the highhanded attitude of senior officials for the exodus. "Whenever there is a building collapse or a scam, engineers' role comes under the scan first. They are made scapegoats even before an inquiry is ordered," said Sainath Rajadhyaksha, the union's general secretary. "Engineers only execute orders. IAS officers take all the decisions."

THE SCAMS THAT STUNG THE CIVIC ENGINEERS

The desilting scam
The Rs 150 scam was discovered after the June 19, 2015 deluge washed away the BMC's rain-ready claims. Twenty-four contractors were booked, and 11 engineers, including Chief Engineer (Vigilance) Uday Murudkar, were suspended. Close to 80 engineers are facing departmental enquiry.

The roads repair scam
Once again, Uday Murudkar's name cropped up along with another chief engineer, Ashok Pawar. A BMC probe also nailed six contractors. With 227 roads under probe, close to 100 engineers could face departmental enquiry.

The building proposal scam
Following allegations of graft by BJP legislator Ameet Satam, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis ordered a probe against officials from the BMC's Building Proposals Department. The probe is on against 26 officials, including a few engineers. Rajeev Kukunoor, Sanjay Mahale, Sandip Gaiwal, Shantilal Tank, and Ketan Doshi are among the engineers who are under the scanner.

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