Srinagar: A day after anti-graft body Vigilance Organization Kashmir arrested five SMC officials on charges of corruption, the employees of Srinagar Municipal Corporation observed a strike alleging that field workers of the Corporation are being targeted without any reason and rhyme. The two days strike call has been forwarded by Ward Officers Union and SMC Employees Union jointly.
Meanwhile, Vigilance Organization Kashmir called various SMC officials for questioning on Friday. These officials are being accused of corruption. Pertinently, Vigilance Organization on Thursday arrested Muhammad Ashraf Warsi (Enforcement Officer.) Fayaz Ahmad Khan, Bilal Ahmad Baba, Mushtaq Ahmed Sheikh (Ward Officers),Urfan Hussain Joo and Bashir Ahmad Bhat (Building Inspectors) after it surfaced that these employees and others of SMC Srinagar, in connivance with the owner of the Hotel Royal Arabia namely Abdul Majid Matoo son of Ghulam Ahmad Matoo of Sadribal Srinagar have allowed the illegal construction behind Khyber Hospital at Khayam Colony Srinagar by violating the approved building permission.
Reliable sources in Vigilance Organization informed news agency CNS that several other employees of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation were called for questioning on Friday for the second consecutive day. These officials included Khurshid Ahmed and Sheikh Muhammad Sayeed (Ward Officers), Sheikh Ashiq Hussain and Farooq Ahmed Wani (Building Inspectors), Farooq Ahmed Shah (Khilafwarzi Officer) and Nisar Ahmed Shah (Chief Khilafwarzi Officer). Admitting that some of the employees of the Corporation were called for questioning by Vigilance Organization, Ward Officer Khurshid Ahmed said that the officials were questioned yesterday as well. Another Ward Officer Sheikh Muhammad Sayeed said that they presented all the documents and records before the Vigilance Organization.
This is not the first time when officials from Srinagar Municipal Corporation were arrested on corruption charges. In recent past couple of corrupt officials were apprehended and lodged in different police stations. In February this year, three Building Inspectors Irfan Hussain Mir, Ajaz Ahmed Thokar, Nisar Ahmed Azad and two Ward Officers Shakil Sheikh of Gundbal Pattan Qazi Muhammad Yousuf of Waterwani Budgam were arrested for facilitating illegal constructions in Ward Batamaloo. In August 2014, Enforcement Officer Ghulam Rasool Dar son of Ghulam Muhammad Dar resident of Hariwaten hamlet of North Kashmirs Tangmarg town was caught red handed by Jammu Kashmir Police while accepting bribe from a person for allowing him to continue his construction work at Bagiyas Chattabal area of Srinagar city. In January 2016, the Corporation was forced to initiate against one of its Ward officers who was allegedly seen in video demanding money to facilitate illegal constructions in his area of jurisdiction in the city. In a purported video clip, SMC officer for Ward number 5 Mohammad Sayeed and some of his subordinates were seen settling a deal with undercover reporters of a local newspaper for allowing illegal constructions against a consideration of Rs 1.5 lakh.
A lower rung employee of the Corporation described the two days strike call unjustified saying that instead of appreciating the role of Vigilance Organization and Jammu Kashmir Police, some employees are grooming the corrupt officials. You will not believe, we were directed to collect garbage from different points and dump that on city roads. We dumped that garbage on around city centre on early Friday morning. This action is only aimed at to give hype to the so-called strike call, he said and added that nobody will take care of garbage in city till Monday.
Meanwhile, Ward Officers Union and Employees Union issued a statement alleging that SMC employees working in the field are being targeted. Manzoor Ahmed Khan, president Ward Officers Union and Nazir Ahmed Khan, President SMC Employees Union in a joint statement to press said that conspiracies are being hatched against the Corporation employees working in the field. We are observing strike because our employees are being arrested by Vigilance without Departmental Inquiry, he said. However, he added that those found guilty must be punished.
When contacted Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr Shafat Khan told CNS that any employee indulging in corrupt practices has to face the music. The strike called by the employees is not justified and they have to resume the work. Nobody will be allowed to back and support the corrupt officials. We want a transparent system and have directed Departmental Vigilance Officer to scrutinize all the buildings in the city. Any officer found guilty will be punished, he said.
Dr Khan added that they have requested Vigilance Organization to let SMC initiate a departmental inquiry against the accused officials. Vigilance has its own mandate and we cant interfere in their affairs. Yet, we will ensure no corrupt official exists in the Corporation, he said.
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