Nineteen members in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s maintenance department responsible for the upkeep of the civic headquarters may soon make way for a private housekeeping agency. The BMC has decided to outsource the upkeep of the Grade-I heritage building that houses the civic headquarters to a housekeeping agency. The civic body is likely to table the proposal before the standing committee on Friday.
For this, the civic body will pay roughly Rs 14 lakh per month to the agency as the two-year contract will cost the BMC Rs 3.37 crore. The idea of issuing the contract to a private agency is to maintain the cleanliness standard in the civic headquarters.
According to the civic body, the existing housekeeping staff have been taking leave very frequently for festivals. Whether it is Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi or summer vacation for their children, housekeeping staff members remain absent, affecting the cleanliness of the 125-year-old civic headquarters.
However, this is not the first time that the civic body will be tabling the proposal. The same proposal was tabled before the standing committee last year in August. It was rejected unanimously by the members who argued that privatisation should not be allowed.
The appointment of the new agency will be done by replacing the 19-member maintenance department. While the actual strength of the staff should have been 80, the civic body has not filled the posts for the past several years. Once the civic administration appoints a private agency for housekeeping, it plans to transfer the staff from the civic headquarters to different departments or other wards under the civic administration.
However, sources say the housekeeping and maintenance department is already short-staffed as the civic body has not been filling the vacant posts, allegedly overburdening the 19 staff members. The proposal states: “The said agency will be responsible for cleaning and maintaining the civic corporation hall, the offices of municipal commissioner, additional municipal commissioners, political party offices, offices of chairpersons of different civic committees and other offices, the cleaning of toilets and other areas of civic headquarters too.”
The civic body justifies its proposal, citing that the headquarters is a grade I heritage building visited frequently by leaders, national and international dignitaries and hence needs proper cleanliness and maintenance. “We are confident that the proposal will be approved this time. And hence we have decided to table it before the standing committee once again,” said an official of building maintenance department, refusing to divulge any further information. According sources, the said contract is a costly affair.
The Leader of Opposition in the BMC and Congress councillor Ravi Raja termed the civic body’s proposal as “the first step of BMC towards privatisation” and sought its rejection. “For a two-year contract, Rs 3.37 crore is being spent. But if we calculate out of 730 days of two years, the civic body will not be working at least for 200 days, given all the other festivals and weekly holidays. I think BMC should put in more of its staff into the housekeeping rather than outsourcing the work. We will take up this point once the proposal is tabled before the standing committee,” said Raja.
BJP councillor from Vile Parle and standing committee member Abhijit Samant agreed, arguing that instead of outsourcing, the BMC must utilise its own workforce. “Outsourcing is not the solution. The civic administration must train these housekeeping staff, hire more members. Rather than spending crores towards outsourcing, the civic body can give incentives to the existing staff and recognise their service. The staff will feel good and would report to work regularly if incentives are given to them,” said Samant.