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PWD overhaul put on hold

The department was set to create 400 posts and set up new offices
Sources in Nabanna said the department had been pushing hard for the Rs 250-crore exercise
Sources in Nabanna said the department had been pushing hard for the Rs 250-crore exercise

Pranesh Sarkar   |   Calcutta   |   Published 30.06.20, 04:59 AM

The public works department (PWD) put its restructuring plan on hold till August 31 following intervention by the Bengal government’s top brass amid questions on the need for this exercise at a time the finance department has banned unnecessary expenses in the backdrop of Covid-19.

“The order to restructure the engineering set-up of different directorates under public works department was issued vide notification no. 178 dated 20.12.2019… Now, the undersigned is directed to state that the period of restructuring exercise is hereby further extended to 31.08.2020,” reads the order issued by the PWD additional secretary on Monday.

Sources in Nabanna said the department had been pushing hard for the Rs 250-crore exercise. But with Monday’s order, the state government has acknowledged that the restructuring was not necessary now. 

CPM MLA from Jadavpur Sujan Chakraborty, during the all-party meeting convened by chief minister Mamata Banerjee last week, had asked why such a “costly and unnecessary exercise” was on in this hour of crisis. 

“The chief minister made it clear during the meeting that she was not kept in the loop and asked the chief secretary to look into it,” said an official.

Under the expansion plan, the department was set to create nearly 400 posts, including five for chief engineers and senior officials like superintending and executive engineers, as well as set up new offices for the officers, hire or buy cars for them and shift a number of offices. 

The entire expenditure would have come to some Rs 200 crore plus a recurring cost of Rs 50 crore every year for salary and maintenance.

The Telegraph recently reported on how even government officials were questioning the PWD’s expansion plan for two reasons. First, the PWD’s workload has reduced after the finance department made it clear that no major project would be undertaken for an indefinite period. Also, its main responsibility of looking after state highways is likely to reduce with large stretches coming under the Centre’s Bharatmala project. Second, questions were raised whether the cost was justified when the finance department barred all unnecessary expense as a part of its austerity drive amid the pandemic. The entire exercise will be looked at afresh after two months.

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