The showdown between Delhi’s AAP government and the BJP-led municipal corporations over funding of salaries escalated on Saturday as city-wide protests marked the fourth day of a civic workers’ strike, leaving roads strewn with garbage and several hospitals locked.
As light rain was forecast over the coming few days, the city braced for a public health crisis because of the piled-up garbage even as chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said arrangements were being made to ensure nobody faced any inconvenience.
“I have directed government to deploy as many trucks as are needed to lift garbage. Public should not be inconvenienced,” Kejriwal tweeted.
A special PWD task force was pressed into action to lift garbage on Friday but the task appeared far from accomplished by Saturday.
More than 130,000 employees have been on strike since Wednesday, bringing municipal schools and hospitals to a standstill apart from leading to a breakdown of the state sanitation machinery.
Nearly 1.2 million students enrolled in 1,860 municipal schools were either sent back home or refused to be taught by their teachers. Massive traffic jams were seen in many parts of the city on Saturday as the protesting workers marched on roads joined by local political leaders sympathetic to their demands, with east Delhi the worst affected.
Emergency as well as OPD services remained suspended at municipal hospitals as doctors joined the strike. BJP leaders and municipal councillors also held a protest against the Delhi government, holding it responsible for the repeated financial crises faced by municipal authorities.
“The Kejriwal government should stop misleading people through media statements on municipal funds. We have yesterday written to the chief minister giving the true facts on funds municipal bodies have got from the Delhi government and our salary bills. MCD salary bills are almost thrice the non-plan funds that have been given and we demand the Delhi government release around Rs 3,000 crore pending funds,” Satish Upadhyay, Delhi BJP president, said.
The Delhi government retaliated, claiming all funds had been disbursed and attributed the current financial condition to corruption and a lack of municipal reforms.
“There is a salary scam in municipal corporations. MCD should make its accounts public. When we have given them the money, it must have been diverted somewhere. There should be a proper investigation,” deputy CM Manish Sisodia said.
The situation is likely to worsen on Monday with employees threatening to dump garbage across the city. “We will continue to protest against delayed salary payments and will also ensure that our protests are not disrupted,” Sanjay Gehlot, president of the Mazdoor Vikas Samyukta Morcha, said.