MCD engineers face heat after court rebuke

December 18th, 2011 - 6:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 18 (IANS) How can civic engineers allow illegal constructions? Why do these guilty officials who take bribes go scott-free? These questions are surfacing fast and furious, especially after the Delhi High Court pulled up engineers of the capital’s civic body and asked why they should not be made to pay the cost of demolition of unauthorised structures.

The court last week observed that the entire engineering department of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) had “decayed” and become an example of “bad governance”. It issued showcause notices to nine MCD engineers, seeking replies on why they should not be made to pay the cost of demolition of the unauthorised construction that came up under their watch.

D.M. Narang, president of a residents’ welfare association, appreciated the court’s move, calling it the first step to bell the engineering department, “the most corrupt civic body department”.

Narang told IANS: “Every second building in Delhi is an unauthorised construction which has been allowed by the engineers in their respective zones. This showcases how they mint money”.

The municipal governance pertaining to building activities is under the jurisdiction of MCD’s engineering department.

According to residents, civic engineers first take money to allow illegal constructions without thoroughly verifying the documents required and then demand bribes for not taking action against their buildings.

Sanjay Kaul, president of People’s Action Group, an advocacy group, said: “The MCD engineers seem to be working for local politicians, not for citizens. The civic body is so used to corruption…if you go to an MCD office for a construction pass, they need to be bribed.”

A prominent builder in Delhi told IANS on condition of anonymity, “Even during demolition drives, the MCD adopts a discriminatory stance. Only politicians’ buildings are first surveyed and given notice. They are given adequate time to approach lawyers. But the common man doesn’t have this luxury, their buildings will be razed like a pack of cards.”

He alleged that MCD officials were extorting Rs.25-30 lakh every day from aggrieved building owners with the promise that their premises would not be razed.

Even as parliament last Wednesday passed a bill to stop all sealing and razing of unauthorised colonies in Delhi till 2014 with a promise to regularise them, the government has been silent on the fate of those who have already suffered.

Asked about those who have already faced demolition before the passing of The National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Bill, 2011, Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath evaded a direct reply, saying: “…so that it doesn’t happen in future, they got this bill.”

To work as an engineer in the civic body, one needs to have a diploma or degree in civil engineering. The pay scale for a junior engineer is about Rs.30,000 a month while a chief engineer gets about Rs.1 lakh per month.

MCD junior engineers claim they are being unfairly blamed.

According to a junior engineer, who has been demoted once, “We are mere scapegoats. We are entangled between the jaws and claws of local politicians and builders. We cannot be honest at the cost of our jobs.”

Delhi Mayor Rajni Abbi is defiant.

“How can you blame the MCD alone? Citizens are responsible for any such situation. How can they build structures illegally? Many times, the MCD has stopped the ongoing work of unauthorised buildings.”

She said it was practically impossible for junior engineers to check each and every building falling under their zone. “Until the engineers see the completion certificates, they may not be aware of it,” Abbi argued.

Dharam Veer, MCD’s deputy commissioner in the Karol Bagh zone where nine junior engineers were slapped show-cause notices by the Delhi High Court, said: “I cannot comment on this. The matter is sub-judice.”

Veer said the civic body has often conducted internal inquiries into incidents of engineers allegedly abetting illegal constructions. “If found guilty, they are demoted… but none has been meted out any stricter actions.”

(Pratibha Raju can be contacted at pratibha.r@ians.in)

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