The 30-day-old strike by safai workers of various municipal corporations and municipal councils in various districts of the state took a new turn here on Tuesday when the protesters enforced a bandh and made shopkeepers to keep their shops closed. As a result, most shops in the city remained closed. Some shopkeepers in mohallas tried to open their shops, but the agitators did not allow them to do so.
The union of sweepers threatened to intensify their agitation if the government fails to accept their demands.
Jatinder Singh Khaira, Moga senior superintendent of police (SS), said, "Keeping in view the strike, a heavy police force had been deployed in all areas of the city to ensure peace. No untoward incident was reported from any part of the district."
During the protest, agitators raised anti-government slogans and blocked traffic on the Moga-Ludhiana national highway for four hours. Angry sweepers also burnt an effigy of the state government.
On the other hand, the hunger strike by state-level union leader Satpal Anjan entered its fourteenth day here on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the sanitary condition of the city has turned terrible as garbage has not been lifted since August 4. Garbage dumps on the Moga-Ludhiana national highway, Zira road, Akalsar chowk, Ferozepur road and Amritsar road are not only creating problems to residents and commuters, but also threaten the spread diseases due to breeding of mosquitoes and flies.
Heaps of garbage welcome visitors to the city on all sides. Garbage dumps, overflowing sewers, foul smell all over and stray animals at every nook and corner of the city are a common sight.
Leaders of several safai sewak unions said that their main demands include abolition of the contract system and regularisation of the sweepers and sewer men appointed on contract, withdrawal of the notification on the transfer of sweepers and pension to the employees appointed after 2004.
Vipan Handa, president of the Municipal Employees Federation, said that the government is trying to sabotage the agitation of sweepers by issuing the "no work-no pay" order; however, the sweepers will not end their agitation till their genuine demands are fulfilled.
"The contractual employees do not get salary on time. Sometimes, the sweepers have to wait for more than six months for salaries. The state government did not heed to their demands. So, we were left with no option but resort to an agitation. The officials of the department of local bodies are not serious to end the strike," he said.
When contacted, Moga deputy commissioner, Parminder Singh Gill, said, "I have sent a detailed report to the Punjab government about the sweepers' demands. I had also tried several times to solve it at the local level, but agitators did not show interest to end the deadlock."