NEW DELHI: The tussle between the BJP-led municipal corporations and the AAP-led Delhi government is raising a stink in the capital.
With the sanitation workers striking work indefinitely since October 23 seeking regularisation of employment, garbage is being piled up in various parts of the city, especially in the East. The North and East municipal corporations claim that they are cash-strapped and are under debt since 2012. The corporation, however, blames Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for this situation.
“Instead of working with us for the betterment of the people in Delhi, Kejriwal has just one goal—to put the entire blame on us. Kejriwal’s blind ambition for power has taken toll on the corporation staff, and the common people are suffering,” North Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor Ravinder Gupta said.
However, Kejriwal has also hit back. In an open letter, Kejriwal has sought to “clear the air” about the government’s role in the ongoing strike of sanitation workers, claiming to have released Rs 511 crore extra to the corporations this year.
There are around 60,000 sanitation workers in the capital, and the members of the United Front went on a strike from October 23, halting the cleaning process. As a result, 17,600 metric tonnes of garbage were piled up. Even though, the East Delhi corporation is trying to clean up the mess following an order by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), a lot remains to be done.
The mess has also raised health concerns. With a large amount of garbage left to be cleaned, the doctors feel that such situations could led to various diseases. “With garbage lying in the open, a person is inviting infections,” said and MCD doctor.
Out of the total sanitation workers, around 10,000 are contractual employees, and their arrears are due since 2003. The figure has gone up to Rs 700 crore, which is beyond the corporation’s budget. In the open letter, Kejriwal, however, rejected the claims of the Delhi government owing money to the civic bodies, and asked the DDA to release Rs 1,500 crore as property tax to the MCDs.
“The Delhi government owes the corporationsRs 8,000 crore and an additional debt of Rs 1,800 as primary education expenses which the corporations claim is owed to them by the Delhi government,” said Gupta.
Even East Delhi Corporation Mayor Harsh Malhotra agreed. “Kejriwal and his gang are fooling the people. They are making it look a fault of the BJP government’s fault. They should stop the blame game and give us the funds which they are sitting on,” Malhotra stated.
The Mayor also alleged that Kejriwal government has spend Rs 526 crore on advertisements but isn’t ready to shell out the outstanding Rs 2,500 crore to the corporations. “They are using the money to fill their pockets and not help us in clearing this big public grievance issue. We are trying to work out the issues with worker unions and they are returning to work, but the funds crunch will remain until the Delhi government changes its attitude towards the MCD’s” Malhotra added.
Stung by the NGT orders, the East corporation, however, took efforts to clean the garbage from the roads, and in the last couple of days, 1,240 tonnes of garbage has been cleared. 195 tonnes of malba and 470 tonnes of silt have also been removed with the help of 54 private trucks. The East has also been provided with 10 trucks each by the North and South corporations.
Apart from the arrears, the workers also demand medical MCD card. Through this card the workers can avail medical facilities at corporation and government health facilities at a minimal rate. Questioning the intentions of the authorities, United Front president Sanjay Gehlot said: “Many promises were made to us but none of them have been fulfilled. All the unions are going to remain on strike till our demands are fulfilled. The AAP government is responsible for this. We had many meetings with the Delhi government representatives, but nothing came out of it.”
They also met Kejriwal, who promised a sum of Rs 1,100 crore, but nothing has been cleared yet.
“We had to take this step because we know that the Delhi government has the money, but they are not willing to disperse the funds,” he added.
The agitators will also hold a Maha Pradarshan on November 5, and they also plan to gherao Kejriwal’s residence. They also plan to file a PIL in the Delhi High court against the MCD.