Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday announced a Rs 551-crore loan to civic bodies to pay striking workers but the move failed to break the eight-day deadlock that has left Delhi in a mess.
The money would only be enough to pay salaries till January, municipal workers said. The strike would continue till a permanent solution was found to the perennial financial crisis the civic bodies find themselves in, they said.
“It is with great difficulty that we have been able to find this Rs 550 crore for loan. The Delhi government is facing Rs 3,000 crore value-added tax shortfall,” Kejriwal said in Bengaluru, where he is undergoing treatment for chronic cough at a private clinic.
He extended the loan to north and east municipal corporations whose staff are striking work over non-payment of salaries and other dues, crippling sanitation work, hospitals and schools. Staff of the south civic body has joined them in a show of support.
The government, Kejriwal said, would also release Rs 142 crore the north Delhi municipal corporation had demanded by way of stamp duty.
The announcements, however, failed to impress as thousands of sanitation workers held protest demonstrations, blocking major roads in Delhi including the National Highway 24 that connects the city to Uttar Pradesh. Traffic jams in the east spilled over to the central Delhi, inconveniencing commuters.
Watch | MCD workers protest by ‘corpse procession’ in Delhi’s Geeta Colony
Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the loan was provided by diverting education department funds, which would “affect construction of new classrooms and school buildings”.
“Funds released by the Delhi government will only be able to pay salaries till January 31. What will happen after that,” said Rajinder Mewati, general secretary, United Front of MCD employees.
“We will not call off strike until the state and Union governments come up with a permanent solution,” he said, adding unification was one possible solution.
In 2012, the municipal corporation of Delhi was trifurcated into north, east and south for a smooth functioning. The north and south civic bodies also take care of the western parts of the city while New Delhi municipal council is responsible for the city’s power district.
Backing civic workers, the three mayors said they would accept financial assistance in the form of “arrears payment and not as loan”.
“We never sought a loan from the Delhi government. We are demanding our constitutional right. The Kejriwal government must pay the rest of the amount,” north Delhi mayor Ravinder Gupta said.
Kejriwal again said his government didn’t owe any money to the civic bodies, which should face a CBI probe for large-scale financial irregularities.
The decision to extend financial assistance was taken after Sisodia met north and east MCD commissioners who asked workers to return to work, promising to look into their problems.