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No vehicles to tow, yet Surat police paid Rs93 lakh to towing firm for services during lockdown

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The Surat police allegedly made payment for towing bills to a company even during the lockdown period when no movement of vehicles or people were allowed.

An RTI has revealed that the Surat Police made a payment of Rs92 lakh to the company for towing services during the lockdown period.

The Surat Traffic Police has given the contract to tow away wrongly parked vehicles to one Agrawal Agency on December 21, 2019.

Sanjay Ezhava who filed the RTI said that the traffic police made payment to Agrawal Agency under several heads during the lockdown period when there was absolutely no possibility of any towing happening. 

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He has written about the allergy illegality to top police officials and other state officials and has sought an FIR in the case.

Here are some of the red flags raised in the alleged towing scam

  • Between March 24, 2020, and May 31, 2020, the country including Surat was in complete lockdown for close to 69 days. No movement of vehicles or people barring essential services were allowed.
  • Surat has around 22 towing crans operational and as per the tender rules payment only needs to be made for the days the towing vehicles were in service. 
  • The letter by Ezhava said that March had eight days of lockdown yet Rs20.27 lakh was paid to the company for the period for expenses mentioned as bandobast.
  • For April when the whole city was under lockdown, Rs15.28 lakh was paid to the agency for various services rendered which were mentioned as bandobast, patrolling, towing, taking vehicles from one godown to another etc. 
  • This even though no actual towing happened because the city was under lockdown.
  • The letter mentions that the payments seem suspicious as it is impossible that the services rendered were part of essential services and it seems strange that the agency’s services were taken without any actual need to do so.
  • In May, the traffic police paid the towing agency Rs22.52 lakh for services rendered. The logbook for the same again mentions the services similar to those mentioned for April. The whole of May the city was in lockdown.
  • In June when Unlock was implemented, movement of people and vehicle were severely restricted. Yet, the towing agency was paid Rs26.99 lakh under various ‘services’. One of the many services rendered was ‘being on standby’.
  • In July, the traffic police began a traffic awareness campaign and towing was stopped. Even the logbook of the company showed the number of towing as nil, yet it presented a bill of Rs27.89 lakh. 
  • The lower-level official who was to clear the payment wrote to his seniors asking whether the agency should be paid or not since the towing was nil. 
  • The top officials greenlighted the payment stating that the agency has been on ‘stand to’ due to the police’s ‘I follow campaign’. As a result, the payment was made in violation of the tender agreements.
  • In August too, a payment of Rs27.97 lakh was made to the towing company despite not much-towing happening. The company had raised the bill under bandobast, stand by and such even as the actual vehicle towing was zero.

 

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