The Rajiv Jadhav-led Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation finds itself in trouble as the Chief Minister’s office seems to have taken a stern view of the approval to proposals worth Rs 500 crore in one meeting of the civic standing committee. The CM’s office has directed the Urban Development Department to inquire and initiate “appropriate action” in the matter.
The Chief Minister’s office took action after Maruti Bhapkar, an AAP leader, emailed a complaint regarding the hasty approval of proposals at the August 25 standing committee meeting of the PCMC. “I had complained to the CM that all norms have been trampled upon by the standing committee and the PCMC administration while sanctioning proposals worth over Rs 500 crore in one meeting,” Bhapkar told this paper on Tuesday. “The CM’s office has sent me a copy of a letter that it sent to UDD officials,” he said.
When contacted, a UDD official said the department will inquire into the complaint as directed by the CM’s office. Bhapkar said of the 99 proposals which were not on the agenda of the August 25 meeting, 90 proposals were hastily approved and without any discussion by the standing committee presided over Mahesh Landge. “These 90 proposals were clearly not on the agenda of the August 25 PCMC standing committee. These were brought in at the last minute. Curiously, these proposals were approved without any discussion,” he said.
Citing an instance which highlights the “blatant wrongdoings,” Bhapkar said, two projects were approved by a single tender which is against the laid-down norms. “For the Rs 15 crore planetarium project and Rs 37 crore Pradhikaran auditorium project, a single tender was approved. This means, there was no competition for claiming the tender. Only one contractor apparently bid for the projects and was given the contract. The civic norms say no tender can be alloted without conducting competition. This clearly raises suspicion about the functioning of the standing committee and the PCMC administration,” Bhapkar said, alleging that the job seems to have been alloted to someone who was close to the standing committee members.
What is shocking, Bhapkar wrote in his email to the CM, is the fact that the dockets were prepared by the standing committee — a job which is supposed to be done by the administration and approved by the Municipal Commissioner. “A docket which is placed before the standing committee has to be prepared by the civic administration. The administration issues tenders, conducts competitions among parties for claiming the tenders and then reaches an agreement with the lowest bidder. It prepares a docket of this agreement and places it before the committee. However, in the August 25 meeting, the dockets were prepared by the standing committee members and the commissioner signed on the dotted lines,” Bhapkar said.
Bhapkar said all this clearly shows that thev Jadhav administration, the standing committee members and contractors had joined hands to push the projects through in a single meeting.
Calling them serious and blatant irregularities conducted by the standing committee and the Jadhav administration, Manav Kamble, president of the Nagari Hakka Suraksha Samiti, said, “We have urged the Chief Minister to take the strongest possible action in this matter. It is clear that everyone has conspired to grab crores. All laid-down norms have been trampled upon. In some cases, we have dockets that had not been placed, yet the project work has been shown as approved,” said Kamble.
Bhapkar said all this was done with an eye on the assembly elections. “Several top politicians in Pimpri-Chinchwad are going to fight assembly elections. They have told their pawns in the standing committee to get projects approved so that they can pocket their commission from the contractors,” said Bhapkar.
When his reactions were sought, Municipal Secretary Ulhas Jagtap, whose office prepares the agenda for the standing committee meeting, said, “It is possible to include several proposals on the agenda of the meeting. However, any proposals that have to be included on the agenda have to be done with the permission of the municipal commissioner.”
Jagtap said several proposals might have been approved, but it is the prerogative of the commissioner to implement them.
However, Bhapkar said proposals can be approved at short notice only during emergency situations like drought and floods. “What was the emergency in this case? There was none. So the civic norms have been flouted blatantly,” he said.
When asked about whether she approved of such violations, Mayor Mohini Lande refused to comment. “It is the prerogative of the standing committee to take the discussion,” she said.
When told that the chief minister’s office has taken a serious note of the issue, the mayor said, “The CM’s office will act as per its investigation.”