Hyderabad: A possible scam was averted in the GHMC Sanitation department when authorities have noticed abnormally high wage bills of sanitation workers during the lockdown period.

However, instead of fixing responsibility on the officials concerned, sanitation workers are being forced to bear the brunt. Sources informed that the salary bills for April had spiralled by over 50% in a few circles, after the nationwide lockdown was imposed to control the spread of COVID-19 infection.

The Aadhaar-based biometrics system, which was introduced three years ago for keeping track of the sanitation workers’ attendance, has been suspended since the start of the lockdown period, in order to avoid spread of COVID-19 through touch. Instead, the Sanitation supervisors, field assistants and medical officers are taking attendance manually.

“Suddenly, the salary bills have spiralled from ₹21 lakh to ₹33 lakh. Upon checking the registers, we found that workers who had not been attending duties for the past six months, were marked attendance. When we sought explanation, they revised the bills to previous amounts,” a zonal level official informed, wondering how the bills could be reduced if they were genuine.

Following this, strict instructions have been issued by the GHMC Commissioner, restricting the release of funds to the pre-lockdown period during which biometric attendance was being taken.

Significantly, no official responsible has been suspended for the fudged bills. Instead, it is reported that the workers in a few circles were paid their wages on the basis of their attendance in February/March, 2019.

Scam last year
February last year bears significance, as a scam in Sanitation wing had been unearthed just a month before. Inspections by the Enforcement and Vigilance department then revealed that cloned finger prints were being used to circumvent the biometrics attendance.

In a letter addressed to Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar, the Telangana Municipal Workers & Employees Union alleged that sanitation workers in Malkajgiri Circle of Secunderabad Zone had received reduced wages for April. The wage difference was noted to have been between ₹1,000 and ₹7,000, the letter said.

When workers protested, bills had been prepared for May restricting the pay-cut to two days, it said, and demanded that the workers who were rendering selfless services despite the fear of COVID-19 be paid in full.

“Workers who were absent from duty during February/March last year, received reduced salaries. When questioned, the officials said they do not have sufficient budget. GHMC has funds to spend over mega projects, but not to pay poor workers,” fumed Paladugu Bhaskar, general secretary of the union.

GHMC officials said they were not aware of any such pay-cut.

Courtesy The Hindu