With the monsoon setting in, several parts of the city may end up facing flooding if the strike continues.

Messy monsoon ahead for Bengaluru Road and drain contractors threaten to strike
news Civic Issues Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 12:57

Bengaluru’s civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) reluctance to pay its contractors is now brewing trouble for city residents.

The contractors working on desilting of storm water drains began their strike on Thursday morning. The contractors allege that the BBMP has not paid their dues amounting to Rs 300 crore since the past two years.

“We will stop desilting of storm water drains and working on repairs from today (Thursday). We will intensify the protest in the coming days if they do not pay up immediately,” said Prakash Babu, a member of the Bengaluru Contractors Association.

With the monsoon setting in, several areas in the city are prone to flooding due to the silt, sewage and garbage accumulated in the storm water drains. The contractors have warned that areas like Bommanahalli, Koramangala, Nagarbhavi, Shantinagar and other low-lying areas may end up facing flooding as they will not carry out work until the payment is made.

Last year, the city had witnessed massive floods across 174 low lying areas. The then Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had released Rs 300 crore funds to fix the storm water drains. The contractors claim that over the year, they completed the work assigned to them but have not been paid yet.

“In October, the BBMP told us to start work. Totally, they had asked for some 390 drains to be cleared and we have been working on it. But there is no payment yet. Once a bill is submitted, they take six months to clear it and every six months, the arrears are carried forward and we never end up getting our full payment. This has to stop,” said Manjunath, the President of the Association.

Currently, the BBMP is carrying out repair works on storm water drains in all eight zones of the city. With the contractors on strike, and the Palike reluctant to pay up, the city faces another threat of flash floods when the monsoon sets in.

In another shocker, contractors carrying out road and footpath works are also planning to go on a strike from Friday if the Palike does not clear their bill of over Rs 1,500 crore.

“These councillors and MLAs will come to us and ask us to fix potholes and carry out emergency repair works. We have not been paid for the past two years. The BBMP takes six months to clear one bill. If the council does not release all the funds tomorrow (Friday), we will not fix any potholes,” Prakash Babu said.

The condition of the city’s roads had deteriorated after the heavy rainfall Bengaluru witnessed in 2017. Several roads were riddled with potholes and 10 people had died in accidents allegedly caused by these potholes. The contractors have warned the BBMP that another such situation would arise if they are not paid on time.

On Wednesday, the Streetlight Operators Association had refused to turn on the street lights across 198 wards in the city as the BBMP had not paid their outstanding bills. The pourakarmikas (civic workers), who toil to keep the city streets clean, have not been paid for six months. Even the garbage contractors allege that they have not been paid. 

A senior BBMP official told TNM that the reason why so many contractors have not been paid is the lack of funds.

“There is a department which clears cheques. Generally, the bills of bigger contractors are cleared and there are not enough funds to clear the bills of smaller contractors. Also, this department is short staffed. There are three operators who have to handle 700 to 800 files. Each of them is adamant that they will clear only 20 bills per day and not more than that. When contractors go and ask for payment, they say that they have already finished their quota of clearing the total of 60 bills for the day and it keeps getting pushed,” the senior officer said.

Confirming this, Prakash Babu also alleged that the BBMP officials clear bills of only those contractors who end up paying bribes.

“We smaller contractors don’t have that much money to bribe the officials. We have been taking loans to carry out works. Even we have obligations to pay up. Also, the BBMP is saying that the funds they have received will be used to recover the properties they had pledged while obtaining various loans. They are saying they don’t have money to pay us. We will not start work until we get our money,” he added.

However, BBMP Commissioner Maheshwar Rao said that the civic body’s officials had held talks with the contractors and that their payments would be cleared soon.

“The issue will be tabled before the council and the payments will be made soon. The work should begin shortly,” he added.

 

 

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