The going has been tough for the ruling CPI (M) at the Kozhikode Corporation for quite some time. From allegations of apathy in handling civic issues to cases of corruption, the cup of woes has been overflowing. Though it has tided over some of the unfair targeting by the opposition with relative ease, the eleven cases of corruption that it faces can be a tough nut to crack.
On top of the pile are the cases related to the implementation of Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Project (KSUDP)’s projects in the city -the E.K. Nayanar Flyover at Arayadathupalam, the Arayadathupalam-Eranhipalam Bypass Road and the city-wide sewerage project.
According to the FIR filed by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) on May 30, the construction of the flyover had incurred a loss, with the Corporation providing additional amount of Rs. 6 crores to the contractor after the completion of the work. In the case of the bypass road, cost escalations have caused a sum of Rs. 3 lakhs being lost from the exchequer. Though the project was completed during the previous council’s tenure, the funds were allotted to the contractor by the present council.
The sewerage project hit a roadblock after a commission that was appointed by the Munsiff Court to check the quality of the drain pipes used in the project found that the pipes were not of the stipulated standards and could lead to serious leaks under normal working conditions. The report submitted on May 22, also points to serious health issues due to groundwater contamination from using such faulty pipes.
Another case relates to the irregularities in the distribution of assistance devices to the physically challenged by the Corporation from 2005 to 2010. The FIR filed on March 6 says that the corporation rejected the quotation of keltron and entrusted it to a private company. The company had selected the beneficiaries and distributed devices of lesser quality causing a loss of Rs. 8 lakhs to the corporation. Also, deserved beneficiaries did not get the devices.
The case related to the waste treatment plant in Njeliyanparamba had created a huge public uproar. The Corporation had allowed Socio-Economic Unit Foundation (SEUF) to run the plant from 2006 to 2008 without executing an agreement and had paid Rs. 1.5 crores without obtaining sanction from the Government. The FIR also says that the Corporation authorities had caused a loss of Rs. 22.46 lakhs in the re-purchase of compost from IL&FS (which has been running the plant since 2008).
The lack of transparency in the awarding of contract to prepare the City Development Plan to Kochi based EMB planners also came in for harsh criticism. As per the FIR filed by the VACB in August last year, the corporation did not invite tender from any other agencies before deciding to award the contract. The project was not accepted by the central Government thus sustaining a loss of Rs. 11 lakhs to the corporation.
The VACB had also found irregularities in the utilisation of the relief fund of the corporation from 2005 to 2010. According to the FIR filed on March 6, the corporation utilised the relief fund in a non-transparent way without making registers for income or expenditure. Though the exact loss is not quantified, the report says that there is a shadow of suspicion in advance sanctioning of funds in certain cases.
In another FIR filed on March 6, the previous council’s authorities are accused of handing over the building of corporations’ night shelter at Palayam bus stand to a co-operative society for running a diagnostic and para medical laboratory on rent without a proper agreement. The loss in this case is Rs. 3.18 lakhs.
The Project officer of the Kudumbashree unit in the Kozhikode Corporation is pulled up in a case related to the failure to monitor the progress of work of the Kudumbashree units thus causing monetary loss to the corporation. The loss is not quantified in this case.
Even the ATM inside the Corporation premises has come under a cloud of corruption. In an FIR of the VACB in August last year, the corporation authorities are accused of causing a loss of Rs. 66,000 to the corporation by allowing the Punjab National Bank to operate an ATM for an annual rent of Rs. 6000. The same bank had opened another counter at the Police Club for an annual rent of Rs. 72,000.
A trip to Delhi invited yet another VACB case for the former Mayor as he and four other councillors were accused of causing a loss of Rs. 85,800 to the Corporation by undertaking a trip under the ‘fallacy’ that the trip was for the purpose of organizing pavilions of Central Government institutions for an industrial and agricultural exhibition.
The last case is on the purchase of a 40 KVA UPS and back up batteries as part of the office computerization work without ensuring th availability of sufficient load of electricity in the office to install the same, which caused a loss of Rs. 5.98 lakhs to the corporation.
On top of all this came the death of a woman by falling into an open drain in the city last week, followed by which there was a clamour for the resignation of the Mayor. Though the road was later found to be under the PWD’s responsibility, the pressure on the corporation for the negligence has not let up.
A majority of these cases pertains to the tenure of the previous council. But the ruling party will find it hard to absolve itself of all responsibilities as the composition of council is much the same, barring the Mayor. The shared responsibility of the opposition in passing many of the agendas which paved the way for these cases also needs to be mentioned.