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Friday, April 23, 2021

After spending Rs 2.10 cr of public money, Chandigarh civic body junks GPS watches

To monitor the field staff, the Chandigarh civic body took GPS watches on a monthly rent of Rs 17.5 lakh.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh |
Updated: February 25, 2021 9:12:29 am
Door-to-door garbage collectors wearing smart watches protest outside Municipal Officer Health office in Sector 17 during their strike in Chandigarh. (Express File )

Where did Rs 2.10 crore public funds go which were invested in GPS watches that have almost been junked now? The purpose of the watches was to track the field employees’ location and only then release salaries to them.

To monitor the field staff, the Chandigarh civic body took GPS watches on a monthly rent of Rs 17.5 lakh.

As the staff protested citing that the watches make them a ‘bonded labour’ and also that the watches were giving wrong locations, the Municipal Corporation has junked the watches with hardly few employees wearing them for an eyewash but salaries being released manually even as civic staff has been paying the monthly rent since last February.

Sachin Lothiya, nominated councillor, said that the GPS watches were ‘a waste of public funds’. “These were of no use at all and shouldn’t have been purchased. Moreover, there were cases of faulty locations too. In one case, location of employee who was in Chandigarh showed that of Kedarnath. Then there were issues of misuse too.”

He added, “Moreover, there are 161 chief sanitary inspectors and sanitary inspectors who are just supervisors and have to monitor the safai karamcharis. They are drawing hefty salaries too.”

Sources said that such was the case that there were reports of one field employee wearing two-three watches of his friends too so that the location of the other ones also comes with him.

Last year, under the then mayor Raj Bala Malik, a committee was constituted to look into the issues of field employees who were opposing wearing of GPS watches. The issue was dumped until the committee came out with a solution. In the meantime, the mayor also changed and the issue was overlooked.

Around 4,000 GPS watches were hired on a monthly rent of Rs 17.50 lakh for the field staff.

Despite paying a hefty amount of rent, attendance is being checked manually.

The civic body had obtained 4,000 watches on rent and an amount of Rs 2.10 crore will be incurred every year.

The objective of the GPS-enabled wrist watches was to record attendance of field staff shift-wise, prevent and control misuse of manual attendance system, maintain transparency, accountability in operations and weed out the fake, duplicate workers.

Not just the Municipal Corporation Employees Union, even safai karamcharis were opposed to wearing GPS watches stating that they ‘weren’t bonded labour’.

Of the total watches , 2,083 watches were for sanitation staff, 1,125 are to be worn by horticulture staff, 319 for public health, 269 for B and R, 85 for electrical wing, 14 for enforcement and 13 for the senior officers.

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