Chennai: Chennai would have avoided the flood fury to a large extent had the authorities there paid heed to the warnings of an honest IAS officer, who had to pay a huge price for acting against local contractors for their botched up road work in the city a few days ago.
As per reports, Dr Vijay Pingale, Joint Commissioner in Works Department of Corporation of Chennai, had acted heavily against the powerful contractor lobby for poorly laid roads just few days before incessant rains hit the state, later triggering a flood-like situation.
Pingale, an MBBS graduate and IAS officer of the 2004 batch, had undertaken several important initiatives in his 16 months tenure as the Joint Commissioner in the corporation.
Due to his fearless approach towards the defaulters, mostly in the matters related to road quality, this top official had earned a reputation for being highly competent and scrupulous.
On November 11, Pingale made public the names of nine contractors who were asked to reimburse the civic body Rs 2 crore for repairs the corporation carried out on stretches laid by them.
Pingale had also promised to name other contractors for poor work and said the total penalties were likely to rise.
Pingale's actions, however, irked the powerful contractor lobby who started building pressure on the political establishment to shunt him at the earliest.
"The penalties infuriated the contractors. Pingale insisted on accountability and never buckled to political pressure. This obviously did not go down well with some people," a corporation engineer was quoted as saying in a report by 'The Hindu'.
Another official who attended a monsoon review meeting headed by minister SP Velumani last week said the minister and other bureaucrats had taunted Pingale for being a straight arrow.
"It appears that the minister and senior officials had then decided that Pingale had to go," he was quoted as saying.
"It was because of his expertise that we were able to limit waterlogging when it rained," the official said, on the condition of anonymity.
"If he remained in the corporation for two more years or so, he could have truly helped it move forward," he added.
Consequently, just three days after he named the defaulting contractors, Pingale was shunted out of the Corporation of Chennai and moved to the industries department as Joint Secretary.
Pingale's transfer came as no surprise for his associates who had the inclination of something unpleasant happening to the IAS officer soon.
Pingale's transfer had affected work on ambitious corporation projects such as a pedestrian plaza in T Nagar, state-of-the art public toilets for the city and a bicycle-sharing project to reduce vehicular congestion, not to mention his abortive attempt to give the city better roads by making contractors accountable for their work.
In hushed tone, corporation officials say inferior works by contractors, who had formed cartel to bag contracts from the corporation, use of poor quality materials to lay roads and massive corruption at various levels in the civic body had left the city's roads potholed and broken with the first monsoon rain.
Now, when Chennai is slowly limping back to normalcy after days of flood fury, the officials of the corporation regret the day when Pingale was transferred for attempting to bring more transparency in the civic body.