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Tension at CSI diocesan HQ

Workers of construction firm stage stir over alleged non-payment of dues

January 11, 2019 12:51 am | Updated 12:51 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Tension prevailed at the LMS compound here on Thursday when workers of a construction company laid siege to the headquarters of the South Kerala diocese of the Church of South India (CSI), alleging non-payment of outstanding dues to the tune of ₹11.5 crore for various civil works purportedly undertaken by the firm.

The situation threatened to go out of control when the agitators blocked the passage of Bishop A. Dharmaraj Rasalam, prompting the Museum police to forcibly move aside the former and intervene to restore calm.

The issue pertained to various civil works of several Church institutions undertaken by Michael Builders and Developers over the last 10 years. T.T. Praveen, managing director of the firm, alleged that the diocese owed them ₹11.5 crore.

He alleged that the new administrative committee of the church, which had taken charge in August 2018, unilaterally terminated the contracts of three projects that were under way and awarded them to another contractor recently.

‘Illegally withheld’

The agitators also alleged that construction equipment, which purportedly belonged to the firm, was being illegally withheld at the behest of the Church officials.

“I have shelled out large sums of money on various occasions to ensure that the work progressed smoothly. I am victimised by the current administrative panel because I refused to make a contribution towards their election fund. The unilateral decisions have been taken when the district court was scheduled to hear the case on January 19,” Mr. Praveen said.

Counter-charges

The diocese, however, rubbished the allegations and accused the builder of having duped the Church of large amounts of money in connivance with the previous committee.

Church secretary P.K. Rose Bist alleged that the construction firm had submitted inflated bills, which were many times the original estimates for various works.

“Two inquiry teams constituted by the diocese had exposed the foul play. Two employees of the Dr. Somervell Memorial CSI Medical College and Hospital were also suspended for their roles in the fraud.

The church has also filed a criminal case at the Vellarada police station against the builder for having forged documents,” he said.

Complaint registered

Dr. Bist added that the diocese had filed a complaint at the Museum police station for the agitation that was orchestrated on its premises in violation of the law.

The agitators, numbering over 250, dispersed after they were provided an assurance that a conciliatory meeting would be held on Monday in the presence of the Bishop, church officials, representatives of the construction company, and police officials.

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