Mumbai: The activist Jockin Arputham, also known as the known toilet man has claimed that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has blacklisted his Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) SPARC (The Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centers) without any reason. The civic body had blacklisted the NGO as revealed by a Right to Information (RTI) query filed by activist Anil Galgali for the delay in construction of toilets.
The BMC has canceled the registration number 4127 of the NGO and SPARC Group of subsidiary companies bearing registration number 14884, and the contracts given therein, hence blacklisting the group for the next five years. The NGO has thus been denied allocation of any new work moreover, payments to be made have also been withheld as per the instructions given by the BMC. In fact, the BMC aims to charge the NGO an additional penalty of Rs. 24 lakh with an attempt to recover the cost of toilet construction allocated to the NGO.
Arputham told the Free Press Journal, “There has been no delay in construction of toilets from our end. I have built over 300 toilets in Mumbai and there has never been a complaint. All the toilets are inspected by the architect, structural engineer, site supervisor under the strict supervision of the municipal staff appointed by the BMC’s Mumbai Sewage Disposal Project (MSDP). The toilet blocks are handed over to the local Community Based Organisation (CBO) after signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the BMC and the local CBO.”
Galgali said according to the RTI reply, the NGO was awarded the work order of construction of 28 toilets in Mumbai on January 3, 2012, for a time period of 30 months and after a 12-month extension, its deadline expired on June 30, 2015. During the total 42 month period, the NGO managed to complete construction work of only twenty toilet blocks and eight blocks are still under construction, he said.
The engineer of SPARC said, “We completed construction of 27 toilets during the allotted time period. One toilet could not be constructed as there were issues in its design. The BMC has not given a completion certificate to any of these toilets but the toilets are functional and used by the people.”
According to Arputham, this move of the BMC is a result of vested interests and manipulation by various construction contractors. “Today, there are a number of contractors who are willing to do poor quality work at a low price. But ten years back when the BMC tenders for building and upkeep of toilets were in a fix, they approached us to take up the work given our expertise in slum development works. Our NGO has been blacklisted due to corrupt contractors and officers,” Arputham said.
Jockin Arputham is known was honoured with the Ramon Magsaysay in 2000 and Padma Shri in 2011. Having worked for more than 40 years in slums, Arputham is the president of National Slum Dwellers Federation (NSDF) and works closely with SPARC which works for housing and infrastructure issues for the urban poor.
Arputham said, “I will present a report of our construction work to the BMC and request the officials to look into the matter. We have been doing our construction work with utmost perfection and once the toilet block is commissioned by handing over to the CBO, SPARC is not in the picture. Operation and day to day maintenance of the toilet block are the responsibility of CBO as per the MOU.”