Two chief engineers arrested in multi-crore road repairs scam BMC’s TB, malaria deaths data inaccurate? DISCREPANCY REVEALED BY RTI
A special investigation team of the Mumbai police that is investigating the multi-crore road repairs scam arrested two chief engineer of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) at 6am on Thursday.
According to the police, Ashok Padamsingh Pawar, chief engineer (roads), and Uday Namdeo Murudkar, chief engineer (vigilance), have been with the BMC for more than 20 years.
The number of people arrested over the scam now stands at 24. The 22 people arrested earlier include 12 junior employees of the six tainted construction firms and 10 employees of two third-party auditors. All 22 are out on bail.
A senior police officer, who did not wish to be named, said, “The two accused had signed all the documents and helped clear the contractors’ estimates for the road repairs. We have arrested them because they played a role in making bad-quality roads and cost the BMC money.”
He added, “Both the chief engineers approved the roads constructed by six tainted contractors. But later, after the scam came to light and a case was registered, they issued a report claiming that the roads were made using substandard materials.”
The number of tuberculosis (TB) and malaria-related deaths reported by the Mumbai civic body in the past five years were up to six times less than the actual figures, according to an RTI filed by Praja Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), which put out a white paper on the issue on Thursday.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) TB control unit has reported 6,838 deaths between 2011 and 2015. But the data sought by the NGO found that there were 34,914 TB-related deaths during the period.
Similarly, the BMC’s malaria surveillance report shows 178 deaths, however, the RTI found 1,137 deaths during the same period. The data was based on an analysis of death certificates issued by the BMC’s public health department in the past five years.
“The BMC only records malaria and TB-related deaths that occur in civic-run hospitals, under their disease control programmes. They do not look at the deaths reported in private hospitals and clinics,” said Nitai Mehta, managing trustee, Praja. “It is ironic that both these statistics are from the BMC.”
In 2014, the BMC had been warned about underreporting of TB deaths, which prompted the civic body to conduct a study on verbal autopsy – a research method that helps determine probable cause of death where there are no medical reports available. But the BMC did not share details of sampling, methodology or duration of the study, said Praja members.
According to the findings, there was a 22% increase in the number of dengue-related deaths between 2014 and 2016. There were 102 deaths reported in 2014-2015, as compared to 124 deaths in 20152016. It also stated that 38% of the deaths were in the age-group of 20 to 39 years.
The National Commission for Women (NCW) is in the spotlight once again as all eyes are set on the decision the panel will take against Bollywood actor Salman Khan for his ‘rape’ remark. Khan was summoned by the commission to appear before it on July 8, following his remark that the gruelling workout for his new movie Sultan left him feeling like a “raped woman”.
While the organisation is hopeful that Khan will respond to its summon, there is not much it can do if the actor does not turn up. Under the National Commission for Women Act, the women’s panel neither has the power to arrest nor penalise a person who does not turn up after being summoned.
Almost two years after the women and child development ministry proposed to amend the NCW Act and give it more teeth, it is yet to be approved by the Union cabinet. The NDA government, instead, ended up diluting some of the key amendments proposed by the ministry.