It was in 2015 that the Telangana government released a Government Order (GO) to shift the Chest Hospital at Erragadda in Hyderabad, around 70 kilometres away to the TB Sanatorium hospital at Vikarabad district. Reports from 2015 suggested that the plan was to build a new Secretariat at the 67-acre land where the Chest Hospital stood. A grant of Rs 7.70 crore was also allocated for the renovation of the TB hospital that was lying in a state of neglect. Six years later, the hospital is still in a neglected condition and shows little sign of the large amount of funds spent on its renovation.
â€śThe buildings are in a horrible state. The doors of the wards and bathrooms are damaged and there is no supply of water. The pipelines are dummy or dysfunctional. The drain water pipes are broken and are lying strewn around. Plants have grown on the walls and are weakening the structure. The roof has cracked and there are several leakages,â€ť recalls Syed Naveeduddin, an anti-corruption activist, from his observations made during his visit to the hospital in 2019. The activist filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in March this year alleging corruption by Telangana state Medical Services Infrastructure Development Corporation (TSMSIDC) engineers who oversaw the work.
The Telangana High Court had issued orders to take stringent action against errant officials if they were found guilty. However, TNM found that most officials responsible for overseeing one of the first projects commissioned by the then newly-elected Telangana government, are either retired, transferred or dead.
â€śI was first alerted about the condition of the hospital in 2018 by a patient who filed complaints about the shoddy work. When nothing happened, he came to me,â€ť said Naveeduddin, who filed a Right to Information (RTI) application with the TB Sanatorium Hospital and found that the Executive Engineer under the Ranga Reddy division of TSMSIDC had sanctioned Rs 5.1 crore of the Rs 7.7 crore allocated for restoration to contractor Siddhartha constructions based in Begumpet.
â€śAny building restored by spending Rs 5.1 crore will not become dilapidated within a couple of years. The contractor here has used poor quality material. They didn't even fill up the cracks on the roof but painted over it,â€ť said Naveeduddin, who attached pictures of the premises as material evidence in 2019 and filed a complaint with the Principal Secretary of Health, Medical & Family Welfare and TSMSIDC, that works under it.
The TB Sanatorium Hospital, built during the rule of the Nizam of Hyderabad, has a bed capacity of 417 on paper with a sanctioned strength of 15 doctors, 150 paramedics and 50 support staff. However, just three doctors are presently stationed there, say activists.
In 2019, Naveeduddin also filed complaints with the Telangana Vigilance Commission and Anti-Corruption Bureau. â€śNo action was taken against the officials, not even an enquiry,â€ť said Naveeduddin, who had even written to the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, seeking an audit of how the funds were utilised. â€śNo audits of TSMSIDC books have been carried out since 2015. The courts are the only option,â€ť said the 38-year-old activist.
The Telangana High Court has sought an affidavit from the departments seeking an explanation on why no action was taken despite complaints.
Questionable quality checks?
A major issue, according to activists, is that no one wishes to take responsibility for the quality checks carried out at the hospital. Officials with the quality wing of the TSMSIDC said that the National Academy of Construction (NAC) was overseeing quality. The NAC said that their role was â€ślimitedâ€ť to just a few inspections.
The NAC was called in by TSMSIDC to act as a consultant for the project. The Quality Control wing of the TSMSIDC said that they only certified the work after it was signed off by the NAC, for which the funds were released to the contractor.
â€śFor Rs 7.7 crore, they could have built a new hospital,â€ť said an official with the Quality Control wing of the TSMSICD who said the role of the department was limited to only checking the quality of the material used before the work began. â€śI was with a different wing at the time and had visited the hospital site. The quality of materials used was indeed questionable. It was our people who approved the materials. It was the NAC that had approved the quality of the finished work,â€ť the officer added.
Naveeduddin in his petition to the court alleges that 12 other works executed by the same TSMSIDC Executive Engineer were found to have used materials poor in quality for construction and that some of the works are incomplete. One of the major works alleged to be of poor quality includes the renovation and upgrading of infrastructure at Hyderabadâ€™s Gandhi Hospital.
The Executive Engineer of TSMSIDC who carried out the renovation work passed away, and the officials who oversaw the quality of materials have since then been transferred. The Chief Engineer of the TSMSIDC who inspected the TB sanatorium hospital and filed a report detailing the renovation work required at the hospital has retired.
The Director-General of NAC, K Bikshapati, said that the NACs role was limited to a couple of inspections carried out during the work and that the responsibility of ensuring that the renovation works were carried out according to specifications, rested with the TSMSIDC.
â€śOur role was only to do the third-party checking. TSMSIDC was the agency who awarded the contract to a construction firm. So itâ€™s their basic responsibility to execute the work as per the specification. We only do random quality checks once or twice while the work is going on. Our consultants go there and do random checks,â€ť said the Director-General, while adding that the allegations of misuse of funds were against the TSMSIDC and the contractor and not against the NAC.
â€śWhen the work is not satisfactory, we tell the contractor that the work is not up to specifications and they are obligated to rectify them. They will need to resolve those issues to get payments,â€ť he further added.
The TB hospital Superintendent was unavailable for comment. However, the hospital in their RTI response to Naveeduddin, said that the administration had no role in renovation work undertaken. TSMSIDC managing director Chandhrashekar was also unavailable for comment.
The Telangana government had faced stiff resistance from locals and Congress leaders to drop plans on moving the Chest Hospital to the TB Sanatorium Hospital at Vikarabad. Concerns were raised on the impact on tourism at Ananthagiri if the temple town became a destination for tuberculosis patients. The difficulty for patients to travel to Vikarabad district from neighbouring Hyderabad was cited as another reason to not shift the hospital. The plan was later dropped by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Raoâ€™s government.
Earlier this year in May, the Telangana government demolished the existing Secretariat and hopes to build a new one costing Rs 600 crore in the same premises, next to the Hussain Sagar. The project has been awarded to Shapoorji Pallonji And Company Pvt Ltd, Mumbai and is expected to be completed in one year.