Free Press Journal

Mumbai: Tainted company to care for Humboldt penguins

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Mumbai: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), on Tuesday, finalised the contractor for maintenance of the Byculla Zoo Humboldt penguin enclosure and the supply of fish to the birds. The Rs 12 crore contract has been awarded to M/s Highway Constructions, which had earlier been fined by the civic body for making false claims to acquire the same. The civic body had said it “did not have the technical expertise for the maintenance of penguin enclosures’ and as a result, it was decided to allot the contract to Highway Constructions. Ironically, two penguins died in the enclosure under the same company’s tenure in less than 18 months.

The corporation will shell out Rs 4 crore each year to the contractor for three years, and the amount will be spent on the maintenance and air-conditioning of the exhibition and quarantine enclosures, the life support and electrical systems, veterinarians’ service and on the penguins’ food supply. The proposal was passed even as corporators raised a stink over the move. “Never did I hear such a construction company getting such a contract. Even after the company had earlier fleeced us by furnishing a fraudulent memorandum saying it had a tie-up with a penguin caretaker company abroad,” said Rais Shaikh, group leader, Samajwadi Party.

M/s Highway Constructions was embroiled in a controversy over the penguin enclosure. A fine of Rs 1.4 crore was levied on the company after the BMC found out that the firm had falsely claimed it had a joint venture with a company having expertise in developing support systems for aquatic life. Sanjay Mukherjee, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Projects), defended the move and said the new contract is different from the earlier one. “We have received the fine and the company qualifies for the said proposal. This job is different from what they were earlier appointed for,” Mukherjee said.