Lucknow: In what appears to be the latest flare-up between the bureaucracy and the political executive in Uttar Pradesh, public works department (PWD) minister Jitin Prasada has written a letter to his principal secretary, Narendra Bhooshan, accusing him of “supervisory laxity” in not submitting a progress report on repair of roads damaged due to rain in the state.
In the letter dated 1 November, which ThePrint has seen, Prasada claimed that despite instructions issued by him during a review meeting held at the PWD headquarters in Lucknow on 28 October, the principal secretary (PWD) had not shared the details of the progress on road repairs.
“[I]t is a subject of absolute regret that till November 1, 2022, you have not shared the details of the progress which denotes supervisory laxity of your work. Hence, a clarification in this regard be sought from the engineer-in-chief (development and HOD) and be presented by evening today,” the letter reads.
The letter has also been marked to S.P. Goyal, additional chief secretary to the Chief Minister, and PWD engineer-in-chief (development and HOD) Sandeep Kumar.
Notably, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, after chairing a high-level meeting on 6 October, had ordered that all the roads in the state be repaired and made pothole-free by 15 November.
ThePrint tried to reach the minister and the Principal secretary (PWD) for their comments on the letter via calls and text messages, but did not receive a response until the time of publishing this report. This article will be updated once a response is received.
This is not the first time tensions have arisen between UP ministers and Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers in the state. On 4 July, deputy chief minister Brajesh Pathak pulled up additional chief secretary (medical and health) Amit Mohan Prasad over two deceased doctors being ‘transferred’, among other alleged discrepancies.
In a separate controversy, the state government on 19 July removed Prasada’s officer on special duty (OSD) Anil Kumar Pandey and five other PWD officials over irregularities in the transfer process of engineers.
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Letter followed ‘3-hour meeting’
Sources in the PWD told ThePrint that the meeting held on Friday was presided over by the minister and the engineer-in-chief (development and HOD), engineer-in-chief (rural roads), engineer-in-chief (design/planning), superintending engineers in charge of all 18 divisions, and some executive engineers.
“The meeting was held in two parts. The first part was held in the afternoon and it went on for about 2.5-three hours while the second part started in the evening. The principal secretary had to leave from the meeting, apparently because of another meeting in the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO),” said a source in the PWD department.
Elaborating on the directions issued in 28 October meeting, Prasada’s letter mentions that it was “directed that the financial approvals for all works for pothole removal/special repairs/upgrade be issued till October 31, 2022 and a daily report about the progress of the campaign for pothole removal be shared [with the minister’s office] till 5 pm”.
Further, it was directed that “the financial approvals for work related to all special repairs worth over Rs 40 lakhs be submitted till October 31, 2022 and that progress of all financial approvals vis-a-vis the repair of the roads damaged due to rains, be displayed on LED screens [at the PWD headquarters] zone-wise.”
PWD transfer controversy
In July, after the transfer of around 400 engineers from the PWD, a large chunk of the workforce alleged irregularities in the process, including transfer of dead engineers and several engineers being transferred to two or three districts. On 12 July, the UP CM directed for a committee to be formed to look into the alleged anomalies.
After the probe committee report revealed several anomalies in the transfer process, the UP government, on 19 July, removed the PWD minister’s OSD and suspended five other officials. The probe committee had found that no approval was taken from the CMO for the transfer of the chief engineer who was posted with the CM’s nod and that the transfers exceeded the mandatory limit even as the sources close to the minister had felt that no rules were violated.
Prasada had then reached Delhi to brief the BJP high command about the removal of his OSD and suspension of five officials.
In July, state jal shakti minister Dinesh Khatik sent his resignation letter to Union home minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah alleging corruption in his department and that his orders were not being followed by officials in his department because he is a Dalit.
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In another development, the UP Engineers Association has expressed concerns over 120 promotions allegedly being withheld by the office of the principal secretary.
Speaking to ThePrint, Ashish Yadav, general secretary of the UP Engineers Association told ThePrint: “Orders to confirm the promotions to about 87 engineers to the posts of executive engineers, 15 to the posts of superintendent engineers and some to the posts of chief engineers are pending to be issued by the office of the principal secretary. The PWD minister would also appreciate that the orders should be issued by the principal secretary’s office as soon as possible.”
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)
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