Sadhu Bela, that picturesque temple complex sitting on a tear-drop shaped island between the towns of Sukkur and Rohri
, is the most venerated Hindu holy site in all Sindh. It began with a single worship house more than three hundred years ago. With the passage of time, it grew importance and with that the number of buildings multiplied. Today it is a conglomerate of buildings amid a delightfully sylvan setting.
About the middle of 2013, a project for extensive renovation and rehabilitation of the existing buildings at Sadhu Bela was initiated. The job entailed repair work of most of the temple buildings, strengthening of riverside retaining walls, construction of three new waiting halls and hostels and provision of solar-powered lights around the temple complex.
With funds to the tune of Rs 487.031 million approved and in place, the job was initiated by the Works and Services Department under the supervision of Executive Engineer Muhammad Ali Makhdoom. Three months into the project allegations began to fly around concerning a most blatant misappropriation of funds.
Among the first to raise the alarm were members of the Sadhu Bela Panchayat Committee based in Sukkur, as this scribe learned from Advocate Mukesh Kumar Karara, Co-Chairman, Sadhu Bela Panchayat Committee. In consequence, Minorities Affairs Department, Govt of Sindh, organised a six-member committee comprising of government engineers, one official from the Minorities Affairs Sukkur Region and Advocate Karara.
The committee was tasked to check and verify that quantum of work was done as claimed and that it was qualitatively, quantitatively and in design in accordance with the parameters of the project. The committee was also to take stock of the machinery purchased against the project and to verify that payments to the contractor were commensurate with the quantity of work done.
The committee met on site in the presence of XEN Makhdoom and a representative of the contractor M/s M&P. According to the report submitted by the committee, the findings were shocking. To begin with, Measurement Books (MB), ledgers to keep account of quantities used and expenses thereof, were not issued by the concerned department as per laid down procedure. Instead, they had been purchased irregularly form the market. As well as that, XEN Makhdoom signed bills without the necessary countersignature of a colleague.
A check of the quantum of work against the MB showed huge discrepancies. Large advances were forwarded to the contractor and the MB recorded work in the new structures to have been completed to the lintel level, on ground it was seen to be either at plinth level or only up to six feet high. Moreover, materials used in construction were far lower than the design required. That is, the contractor benefited from the saving in materials.
In respect of the three buildings being raised from scratch, the committee carried out a detailed assessment of the amount paid above the quality and quantity of work done. It concludes that over Rs 10,197,000 has been unduly paid to the contractor without proper measurement of quantities.
Interestingly, to match this gross misappropriation of government funds, the committee also found the monthly fuel; oils etc bill was clearly excessive. As well as that a voucher showed that Rs 3.980 million were paid to M/ Larkana Tractor House for the purchase of two tractors for the project.
This is bizarre as bizarre can be. Sadhu Bela is merely about five acres of land crowded with worship houses, ancillary buildings and thick stands of trees. This is a place where tractors cannot be used. And indeed the machines were nowhere on site when the committee met there on 4 October 2013. The machines produced by XEN Makhdoom two days later were two well-worn Massey-Ferguson tractors – way too old to have been purchased against voucher no 91 of 13 June 2013.
There was, besides, Rs 20 million paid to the contractor as advance for the installation of one hundred solar-powered lights. The committee found not a single pole or light in place.
From the initial report it is clear that something grossly irregular was afoot since the Rs 487.031 million mega project ‘Consolidation/Rehabilitation of Sadhu Bela, Sukkur’ took off. When this report hit the office of the Chief Secretary, Sindh another inquiry was ordered as of late February 2014. This time it is headed by Dr Riaz Memon, a Grade 20 officer of the Pakistan Administrative Service who enjoys a reputation of honesty and integrity.
Is it now time that some heads will finally roll? Or will political meddling once again forestall justice?
Related: Food for Thought
Labels: Heritage, Sindh
posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,
At July 24, 2015 at 11:44 PM,
Memoona Saqlain Rizvi said...
Gosh...at times I wonder why our people feel so insecure n waste themselves thus. Preservation of these historical sites actually guarantees a way of bringing in money from pilgrims n tourists and a lot of other small business opportunities. All we need to do is to take really good care of our historical heritage and to know it thoroughly and with peace in the country, it can be the best source of income.
Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best for Sadhu Bela.
At July 25, 2015 at 10:18 AM,
Salman Rashid said...
There is little hope. Now that the State (read army and secret agencies) have resolved not to let any tourists into the country, there will be no redemption.
At July 25, 2015 at 3:24 PM,
Memoona Saqlain Rizvi said...
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