Drafted in haphazard manner, under duress, say engineers in letter to BMC

A day after BMC scrapped a tender worth Rs 5,800 crore floated to concretise 400 km of Mumbai roads to make the city free of potholes, a letter has come to light in which engineers from the civic body’s roads department have claimed that the tender was drafted in a haphazard and unplanned manner.

In the letter to the deputy chief engineer (Roads) on September 30, the engineers also wrote that they were made to work under stressful circumstances to prepare the tender.

When The Indian Express reached out to the engineers from the department, they acknowledged writing the letter but refrained from elaborating.

The BMC had floated the tender on August 2 after Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had issued a diktat of making the roads free of potholes. The engineers alleged that changes were made in the clauses after the tender was floated, making their job tedious.

The letter was signed by 10 engineers from the roads department. Most were involved in carrying out road works in western suburbs under R Central ward.

In the letter, they mentioned that a colleague, sub-engineer Abhijeet More, died of a heart attack during a meeting on September 29 — in one of the many sessions held to frame new clauses. They attributed the death to the stressful work environment.

“Abhijit More had to work on various tenders on September 28, till late night, along with his fellow engineers since none of them were given adequate time to prepare the tender. Yet, all the engineers had to attend office the next day,” the letter said. It added, “The purpose to pen down this incident is to point out this serious issue of unplanned works, haphazard working hours, stressful environment and its effect on all engineers who are working day and night in this department.”

The letter also mentioned that for the last few months, the administration had been pressuring engineers to get tedious jobs done in no time, including preparing the draft of the tender. “The engineers have prepared the tender in less than a month, including inspection and shortlisting of roads, preparation of inventory and estimates, floating the tender, making compliances and recording other relevant inputs,” the letter stated.

The engineers said the list of roads that needed improvement works were updated frequently, which acted as extra pressure. They added that the instructions would come from the senior authorities. They also claimed that multiple reports on a particular issue was prepared, another example of unplanned and haphazard works. “… the administration is not giving enough time for these works, directions are not clear and unplanned works has resulted in excessive working hours and stressful environment,” the letter stated.

The BMC administration, in reply to the letter on October 4, wrote that completing the road works is of utmost priority. It added that a list of engineers, who are unwilling to work in the roads department due to stressful conditions, should be prepared so that they could be transferred.

“The new government has given ambitious target of concretising all roads of Mumbai. The government also wants to provide good roads to citizens immediately. To achieve this, BMC is in the process of inviting various tenders… Due to elections in the next few months, there is urgency to complete the tender process before (model) code of conduct (is imposed).”

“Therefore, the staff has to remain on toes and work on war-footing. To meet deadlines, staff may have to work till late evening and sometimes of public holidays too,” the letter added.

“It is therefore requested to review the situation and prepare a list of engineers who feel stressed while working in the roads department and (are) not willing to work in this department, so as to arrange transfer of unwilling engineers in a phase-wise manner to avoid any delay in the matter.”

The letter was signed by M M Patel, chief engineer of the roads department. Despite repeated attempts, Patel remained unavailable from comment.

Meanwhile, elected representatives demanded a probe on the issue. Ravi Raja, former Congress corporator, said: “The letter shows how higher-ranked officers are sitting in their offices in utmost comfort and making their subordinates work in an apathetic manner to an extent that they are suffering from heart attacks… It is now clear that the clauses in the contract are tweaked multiple times to benefit a particular lobby of contractors. A high-level probe is needed.”

Rais Shaikh, former SP corporator, added, “It is evident now that the civic chief has been trying to please the new CM. The proposal of making Mumbai roads pothole free is impractical. I had raised this point with the commissioner but he didn’t pay any heed. Now that the engineers are saying the same thing, I guess the CM will take cognizance and order a probe.”

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