The Public Works Department (PWD) assistant engineer in Tripunithura, who was issued two transfer orders within a week, has challenged the transfer before the Kerala Administrative Tribunal.
Shylamol V.K., known within the PWD as an upright engineer who goes by the rule book, was transferred to Pothanikad in July-end and to Koothatukulam in the first week of August.
The allegation is rife that she was transferred twice for insisting that the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) deposit the full amount to restore the S.N. Junction-Puthiyakavu Road in Tripunithura before digging it for laying pipelines. With an engineer from the Koothattululam office challenging her posting there, she is awaiting yet another posting order.
The transfer of the officer within a year of her assuming the post has come at a time when the PWD is hogging headlines for the pathetic plight of roads and highways maintained by it. “She was transferred because of relentless pressure. She insisted that the KWA should not be given permission to dig the road in May, since the monsoon was round the corner and resurfacing would suffer delay,” said a high-ranking PWD official.
Overlooking stiff opposition from Ms. Shylamol, the PWD permitted the KWA to dig the road, resulting in pipe-laying work suffering delays and the KWA failing to restore the road before the monsoon. Neither did the KWA pay the full amount for road restoration to the PWD.
The ensuing chaos resulted in vehicles frequently meeting with accidents and the crucial road being closed to traffic. The entire town came to a standstill after political parties and others organised a hartal, protesting against the condition of the road.
Ms. Shylamol had sent letters to the PWD (Roads wing) Ernakulam executive engineer, demanding adherence to the PWD Manual while permitting the KWA to dig the road. She had also sent copies to high-ranking officials in the department and people’s representatives from Tripunithura, highlighting the perils of permitting digging of the road prior to the monsoon and the KWA’s reluctance to deposit the restoration fee.
An engineer who was once victimised for adhering to the PWD Manual said a good share of PWD roads in the State would have been in better condition, if engineers had not unduly heeded to recommendations of political leaders and pressure exerted by road contractors.
He said upright engineers and overseers were often made scapegoats, while those who yielded to pressure were given plum postings. “Officials are posted on three-year tenure, but those who uphold professional ethics are transferred under the head of ‘administrative convenience’ or victimised. Obtaining a transfer to a plum posting is big business in the PWD and lakhs of rupees change hands.”
“Ms. Shylamol fell out of favour with a senior official and a political leader, and was hence shunted out,” a senior PWD official said.
Interestingly, the PWD has not initiated action against the engineer in charge of PWD’s Mulanthuruthy section office, despite two young bike riders being run over by a lorry a month ago after they swerved to the side to avoid a pothole on a PWD road near Kureekad railway gate.
Neither has the department blacklisted contractors who resurfaced roads in May which suffered major damage within a week of the rainy season.