The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has submitted its chargesheet following an investigation into the fire at Lower Parel's Kamala Mills compound on 29 December, in which 14 persons lost their lives. The civic body has chargesheeted five officials who were suspended on the day of the tragedy.
A report on The Times of India said that all five have been charged with dereliction of duty. The five officials " designated officer Madhukar Shelar, sub-engineer Dinesh Mahale, junior engineer Dhanraj Shinde, medical officer health Dr Satish Badgire and assistant divisional fire officer S S Shinde " had been suspended from their posts hours after the fire broke in December 2017.
The report mentioned that a full-fledged inquiry against them is underway, and is being conducted by additional municipal commissioner Vijay Singhal. Sources also told the newspaper that a detailed, seven-page chargesheet has been issued against each official, detailing the exact reason how they failed to perform their duties.
A senior civic official privy to the inquiry was also quoted in the report as saying, "The Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act 1888 clearly stipulates the roles and responsibilities of municipal officers. Besides, we have also made use of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (Service Regulations 1989) to exactly point out their culpability."
The BMC chargesheeting its own employees for a tragedy is a new development, following up from what municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta had told Firstpost last month in an exclusive interview.
Mehta had said that BMC will emphasise on self-regulation and self-compliance, however, he had insisted that people who are responsible will be pulled up, regardless of whether they are contractors or officers.
Hitherto, officials working for BMC would be rapped or suspended, but criminal action being pursued against them for dereliction of duty is a new trend. It happened once in 2016 in a road repairs scam when three senior BMC engineers were chargesheeted.
As reported by The Times of India in October 2016, three senior BMC employees were arrested and chargesheeted for their role in the Rs 353 crore road scam. In all, 62 people have been booked in the scam and 25 have been arrested, including former chief engineers Ashok Pawar and Uday Murudkar, executive engineer Kishore Yerme, contractor Dipan Shah (the director of Relcon Infra Projects) and 10 road work quality auditors. However, the chargesheet named only the three BMC officials.
The chargesheet had accused the engineers of being in connivance with the contractors to give misleading reports about the thickness levels of the roads, so they could save the amount of material that gets used. The civic body was also given exaggerated bills. And when engineers didn't go on inspections, contractors falsified the inspection reports as well, the report said.
Furthermore, the chargesheet also contained reports that the contractors used trucks fitted with a vehicular tracking system (VTS) to bring ready-mix concrete from their factories to the sites, but then manipulated the system to alter readings for their own benefit.
Similarly, there was also the desilting scam in which the BMC took action against its own staff. In 2015, 14 BMC officials were suspended for an alleged drain desilting scam, The Times of India reported, following which the civic body said it would file a chargesheet against all the 14 officials.
The scam came to the fore after heavy rains were witnessed in 2015 that threw life out of gear in Mumbai and proved the civic body's claims of being monsoon-ready as false. Mehta had ordered a probe into the matter which found that civic officials had connived with contractors by signing payment bills even though desilting work on drains hadn't been done properly by the contractors. View More