The Capital headed for a civic and health nightmare on Wednesday as 130,000 municipal workers went on an indefinite strike over non-payment of salaries, an issue caught up in political stink.
The protest triggered fears of a rerun of last October’s stinking situation when piles of garbage on roadsides during a strike sparked fears of disease.
It could turn worse this time because 5,000 doctors and paramedics are staying away from municipal hospitals and dispensaries while sanitation workers of the three BJP-ruled municipal corporations, who clear 10,000 tonnes of trash every day, are on strike.
This is the not time to die too because services in 72 crematoriums have been curtailed because of the strike.
The protesters, holding chief minister Arvind Kejriwal responsible for the salary trouble, gave a three-day ultimatum to address the matter.
They protested outside Kejriwal’s home, burnt his effigy, and shouted slogans at a rally in Jantar Mantar.
“All the workers will be on strike for the next three days. If the government fails to react, we will begin dumping garbage on city streets,” warned Sanjay Gehlot, the president of Swatantra Majdoor Vikas Sayunkt Morcha.
The Delhi government clarified that it has disbursed funds to the municipal corporations for payment of salaries and that all the three civic commissioners written back about receiving the amount.
The strike started on a day the Delhi high court issued notices to the Centre, the Delhi government and the municipal corporations over non-payment of salaries.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath also directed the Delhi police to ensure that sanitation workers, who have been spearheading the protest, do not face any difficulty at work.
The AAP government counsel Rahul Mehra asked the bench to order the strike called off, stating that the government has “released 100% funds” to the corporations.
Delhi tourism minister Kapil Mishra alleged that the corporations had Rs 300 crore that they are not spending. “You are creating a drama. What happened to the money the corporations get from parking, advertising, house tax, toll tax, and property conversion? What happened to the money? Why aren’t you paying the poor employees? This is deep-rooted corruption. There is also a conspiracy hatched by the BJP to bring shame to the city and force Delhiites to live in filth,” he said.
The BJP countered with north Delhi mayor Ravinder Gupta saying that chief minister Kejriwal has lost his mind. “He should go to a mental hospital instead of naturopathy,” he said, taking a dig at the chief minister’s medical trip to Bangaluru.
An official said employees of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation have been receiving salaries on time but joined the strike in solidarity with their colleagues from the other two agencies.
“It’s astonishing to see that the governments are busy blaming each other for our unpaid salaries, rather than actually helping us. The situation has reached a point where we must go on strike if we want to get paid our dues,” said a doctor at a civic hospital.