BWSSB plan to outsource upkeep of pump houses raises hackles

The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) is quietly planning to "privatise or rather outsource" the maintenance of water pump houses that supply water to the city.

It recently placed an advertisement in newspapers inviting tenders for the annual maintenance of Cauvery Water Supply Scheme Stages 1, 2, 3 pump houses at Thorekadanahalli (TK Halli). The operation and maintenance of these pump houses were under the control of the board until now.

BWSSB engineers, however, insist that the tenders were invited only for repair, not maintenance.

"This is the second time we have invited tenders as there were no bidders the first time we called them two months ago. The repair of nine pumps at TK Halli was done by many contractors who took it up as piecework (small work). Now, we want to assign the repair to one contractor for a year," said Venkatesh S V, executive engineer, Cauvery head works division, BWSSB. He denied that the board was planning to outsource the work.

A former engineer, who had toiled to bring Cauvery water from TK Halli, expressed displeasure at the recent development and described the outsourcing as the "advent of the East India Company".

"By handing over the repair to contractors, engineers would be rendered redundant. The engineers' technical know-how about pump houses and motors would become zero," said Narayana Iyengar K R, retired chief engineer, BWSSB.

The BWSSB has failed to nurture its employees by training them to handle the maintenance, he suggested, adding that outsourcing would increase the financial burden on the board.

Kshitij Urs, the co-founder of Peoples' Campaign for Right to Water, said the operation and maintenance were the core job of the BWSSB and they should not be outsourced.

"When the board invited tenders two months ago, the contractors did not come forward simply because such work is not financially viable. Secondly, the water supply to the public has a social risk. Mysuru city had privatised the water supply which completely failed a few years ago," he added.

The retired engineer said the privatisation concept had failed in many countries and that the BWSSB should take a relook before heading for outsourcing.

DH News Service

Box

BWSSB: In numbers

* 3,500 sanctioned posts.

* 2,157 employees.

* 1,343 vacancies.

* 1,900 contract employees.

* 2,700 additional sanctioned posts sought by the BWSSB.

* Valvemen, meter readers, data entry operators and drivers mostly work on contract.

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