Appointment Of GMC & GMDA Chief Engineer Found ‘Illegal’
GUWAHATI: G Plus had reported in March 2019 that the appointment of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Chief Engineer Debajit Das was alleged to be illegal. The same allegations proved to come true as on 23rd September 2019 the Gauhati High Court, acting on a petition filed by senior journalist Manjit Mahanta, disposed the same saying that the appointment process had been illegal.
City-based activist and senior journalist Manjit Mahanta, talking to G Plus said, “His (Debajit Das) appointment was illegal in Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA). So we filed a case and accordingly his appointment there was quashed. We were shocked to see that he was again appointed as a chief engineer in the GMC; thereafter we again filed a case. On 23rd September, the Gauhati High Court said that his appointment as a chief engineer in GMC is illegal.”
Mahanta explained that to appoint a chief engineer, the urban local body (GMC) has to submit a requisition to the government. But in the case of Debajit Das, this never happened. The Guwahati Development Department (GDD) directly appointed Debajit Das as the GMC Chief Engineer which was illegal, revealed Mahanta.
He also explained that even in GMDA, an engineer of the rank of Additional Chief Engineer could join as the Chief Engineer, but Das, without having this requisite qualification and rank, was appointed as the Chief Engineer which was later cancelled by the court. He is just an Executive Engineer, said Mahanta. After his appointment was cancelled in GMDA, Das was appointed as the Chief Engineer of GMC in March 2019.
An ACS officer who used to work with GMDA in 2016-17 (and is now posted elsewhere), talking to G Plus under the condition of anonymity said, “As per the GMDA Act, the main criterion to become a chief engineer of GMDA requires that the engineer be from the Public Works Department (PWD).
He/she should not be holding a rank lesser than the rank of a superintending engineer (SE). Das apparently does not satisfy this criterion. He was an ex-cadre executive engineer. His posting at GMDA itself was illegal which was subsequently declared in a verdict of Gauhati High Court.”
He further revealed that he was transferred as the Chief Engineer of GMC and even this transfer is illegal as the post of the Chief Engineer of GMC, according to GMC Act 1969, is equivalent to the post of Superintendent Engineer (SE). “How he was appointed to this post is known only to the Guwahati Development Department (GDD),” said the officer.
Notably, Siddhartha Bhattacharya has been the GDD minister since last year.
Some of the PWD engineers suspect the transfer to be a political move as, according to one assistant engineer, Debajit Das is politically well-connected. Das joined PWD in 1996.
An assistant engineer who is senior to Das in PWD, talking to G Plus under condition of anonymity said, “Das got promoted as Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) in 2001. After 3 years he became Executive Engineer. Then again even 3 years had not passed, he became Superintending Engineer.” The assistant engineer also said that after his regular “out-of-turn” promotions because of various nexuses in PWD, other engineers challenged his promotion before the court. Das then got demoted and now he is an Executive Engineer ex-cadre, the assistant engineer said.
He also revealed that Das was very close to IAS officer MGVK Bhanu who was then an influential bureaucrat during the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in the state. Now retired, Bhanu joined the Congress Party and contested in 2019 Lok Sabha elections from Tezpur on the party’s ticket and lost the elections.
The petitioner, Manjit Mahanta, was under tremendous pressure to withdraw the case, as revealed by him. Many people tried contacting him to withdraw the case and around three-four times he was also offered inducements to the point of “anything he wanted.”
Das still serving as Acting CE in GMDA
The Guwahati Development Department (GDD) seems to have no other engineers as competent as Debajit Das. And so, even after the Gauhati High Court cancelled his appointment as the in-charge Chief Engineer of Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA), he is still working as the Acting Chief Engineer in GMDA.
On 27th September 2019, G Plus asked the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GMDA, “Who is the Chief Engineer of GMDA now?” The CEO, Moloy Bora replied, “Debajit Das is the acting chief engineer.” When being enquired why he was still serving as the Court had cancelled his appointment, the CEO said that he has not seen the court order.
The petitioner, senior journalist and social activist Manjit Mahanta, because of whose petition the appointment of Das was cancelled from GMDA earlier and now from GMC, feels that Das will move the court to stay the court order cancelling his appointment from GMC. But Mahanta is not sure if he is still serving in GMDA. Mahanta said that he will fight against such illegal government decisions and make sure that Debajit Das is not serving in GMDA and GMC as chief engineer.
The question remains how an individual without having completed the required criterion is heading the technical part of two important departments which are important in ushering in the development of Guwahati city. Why is the GDD favouring this yet unqualified engineer so much?