With the festival of Diwali approaching, the war between the Aam Aadmi Party and Delhi municipal bodies is taking a toll on civic amenities in the capital. Though some of the sanitation workers have joined work, many of them are still on strike, affecting routine jobs.
The Delhi government is drawing flak from municipal bodies who claim they are being victimised in AAP’s politics against the BJP.
Harsh Malhotra, mayor of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), said: “The Delhi government releases money in slabs and has so far released Rs 1,209 crore for the EDMC this year, which is only enough to meet the salaries of our employees.”
“There are other important areas to fund, like healthcare and education. No funds have been released for these expenses. How will we meet the expenses for these areas?” Malhotra asked.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal this week released an open letter claiming that till October last year, the Delhi government had paid Rs 1,859 crore to the three municipal corporations in the National Capital. This year, he claims, Rs.2,370 crore have been paid till now, which is an increase of Rs 511 crore. “The corporations are to get Rs 1,500 crore from DDA as property tax. Both DDA and the corporations are under the Centre. Our request is that the amount should be released soon,” he further said. Kejriwal’s claims did not go down well with the municipal corporations with allegations of the AAP government practicing exploitative politics.
“The EDMC only had to recover Rs 100 crore as property tax from the DDA out of which Rs 20 crore have been paid and the rest is due. The Chief Minister is only using the misery of poor workers for political mileage. This is exploitative politics. The Centre has released all funds to the Delhi government, but it is does not want to release more money to the municipal bodies,” Malhotra said.
The NDMC also agreed with the EDMC stand that the Delhi government owes thousands of crores to the three municipal bodies in Delhi. “The NDMC runs in losses of over Rs.1,500 every year because of the non-payment of funds by the Delhi government. We are cash strapped. Delhi government owes more than Rs 10,000 crore to the three municipal corporations. It’s inevitable that with such losses, many people will not be paid their salaries. Not only sanitation workers, but teachers, doctors, all are suffering. The Delhi government is lying through their teeth,” said Ravinder Gupta, Mayor, North Delhi Municipal Corporation.
“If the government had paid dues to the corporations, even the poorest employees would have been able to celebrate Diwali by lighting a lamp in their houses. The ‘safai karamchari’ who earns Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per month will not be able to survive like this, let alone celebrate Diwali. They still called off the strike in a gesture of goodwill,” Gupta added.
Over 63,000 sanitation workers in the National Capital ended a three-day strike last Sunday. There are three municipal corporations in Delhi — East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC). Out of the three, only the SDMC has been able to stay out of the red zone. Delhi’s safai karamcharis are still to be paid arrears dating back till 2003.
The situation is critical considering that regular sanitation workers earn Rs15,000-Rs 25,000 gross salary per month. Daily wagers are paid anywhere between Rs 300 to Rs 400 per day.
“We decided to call off the strike after a meeting with Delhi’s Social Welfare Minister Sandeep Kumar who assured us that the government will give the remaining portion of grant for this financial year in December. The decision to call off the strike was also taken in view of the approaching Diwali festival,” Sanjay Gehlot, president of Swatantra Mazdoor Vikas Sanyukt Morcha, said.