Two chief engi­neers ar­rested in multi-crore road re­pairs scam BMC’s TB, malaria deaths data in­ac­cu­rate? DIS­CREP­ANCY RE­VEALED BY RTI

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - HT Cor­re­spon­dent ht­metro@hin­dus­tan­ HT Cor­re­spon­dent ht­metro@hin­dus­tan­ DEATHS DEATHS Moushumi Das Gupta moushumi.gupta@hin­dus­tan­

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.

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