East Delhi is stinking, with an estimated 20,000 metric tonnes of garbage strewn on its streets as a strike by sanitation workers entered the 27th day on Monday.
Top corporation officials are saying that even if all 16,000 of the ‘safai karamcharis’ resume work immediately, it will take at least 10 days to clean up the mess that has already piled up.
Only 60% of the trash generated in residential neighbourhoods that fall under the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) is being taken for processing with the help of private workers hired corporation, officials say. The rest is lying on the roads. Residents say that the worst-affected areas are IP Extension, Mayur Vihar, Preet Vihar, Nirmal Vihar, Vivek Vihar, Laxmi Nagar, Vikas Marg Gandhi Nagar, Geeta Colony, Anand Vihar, Krishna Nagar and Karkardooma.
The safai karamcharis are demanding regularisation of all workers employed after 1998, and the payment of pending salaries and arrears. This is the sixth strike by the municipal sanitation staff in east Delhi in the last three-and-a-half years.
“East Delhi generates about 2,600 metric tonnes of garbage every day but only about 2,200 is collected and sent for processing. Due to the strike, about 1,600 tonnes is being lifted every day with the help of private trucks and auto tippers. Though other agencies are also picking up some garbage, about 900 tonnes is being left behind every day. By our calculation, about 20,000 tonnes is strewn on roads and pavements right now,” said EDMC mayor Bipin Bihari.
Another corporation official said that in some areas, the striking workers are not letting the privately hired workers collect garbage from roadsides.
The corporation needs Rs 1,500 crore to fulfil the demands of the striking workers, according to an official from its finance department. But the EDMC is already running at a deficit of Rs 3,500 crore — “salaries are often delayed by 2-3 months, forget about regularisation,” the official added.
The problem may get worse because sanitation workers have threatened to continue the strike during the upcoming festive season – through the Navratas to Dusseshra, and then up to Diwali (November 7) – if their demands are not met.
The councillors from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that there is no further scope for negotiations on this issue with sanitation workers.
“We accepted all demands of sanitation workers including regularisation of 4,800 contractual workers employed after 1998. But one of the unions is politicising the issue and now we are going to take stern action against those participating in the strike,” said Satpal Singh, chairman of the EDMC standing committee, adding that the cash-strapped EDMC is not in a position to hire a temporary workforce to clear the mess for the festival season.
The civic agency on Monday took action against 43 striking sanitation workers who did not return to work. Till now, 114 workers have been suspended.
“We have suspended 10 sanitation workers in Shahdara south and seven in the Shahdara north zones. Similarly, the contracts of 11 temporary workers were disengaged in Shahdara south while 15 in north zones,” an EDMC spokesperson said. The mayor has deputy commissioners of both the zones for a detailed daily report on the situation on the ground.
BS Vohra, the president of an umbrella group of east Delhi resident welfare associations, said on Monday that the garbage was becoming a serious threat to public health. “There is now a constant threat of outbreak of diseases,” Vohra said.
A trader from Krishna Nagar, Vipin Gupta, said: “The festive season is considered good for business but this time sanitation strike might affect our business adversely as the customers would not feel comfortable shopping amid garbage laden and stinking roads,” he said.
He said residents were suffering because of “dirty” politics being played by the BJP and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). The BJP is ruling the corporations but AAP is in power in Delhi.
“When we go to the sanitation workers, they say they are on strike. Neither the government nor the civic bodies are paying attention to the crisis. Residents are the real sufferer. Delhi government and the corporations both are playing politics over garbage,” he said.
KS Mehra, former commissioner of the unified corporation, said that the civic body has done little to improve its financial condition after trifurcation. “In 2012, decision was taken to give financial assistance to EDMC through ‘special packages’ from the Delhi government considering the fact that they had limited sources of income and 75% of unauthorised colonies fall under their jurisdiction. But, the civic agency was also supposed to take steps to increase income.”
Reacting to the ongoing strike, AAP leader and party in-charge of East Delhi Lok Sabha seat Atishi said, “The BJP has turned the Jamnapaar areas (on the east of Yamuna) into a huge garbage dump. The mess has been lying there since 27 days. They blame the Delhi government for not paying the salaries of sanitation workers who are on a strike.”
BJP Delhi unit chief Manoj Tiwari said the Delhi government has not been following the Supreme Court’s orders on funding municipal corporations. “The top court had to issue directions to the Kejriwal government to take action on issues, including releasing funds to the MCD. The people of Delhi continue to suffer,” Tiwari said.
First Published: Oct 09, 2018 07:19 IST
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