The national capital is staring at a civic crisis as 1.4 lakh employees of its three municipal corporations threatened on Tuesday to join a strike by sanitation workers that has left parts of the city littered with mounds of rotting garbage.
A joint front of municipal workers said they will go on strike if their pending salaries are not cleared by January 18. The sanitation workers of East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) launched an agitation last week over non-payment of salary, which they said is due from November.
The fresh threat was issued by an umbrella body of municipal workers across the three civic agencies, representing 28 unions and employees from different professions, including engineers, teachers and health workers.
If they stick to their threat, essential services will be affected, bringing the city on the brink of a civic lockdown, experts said.
Even an order by the Delhi high court, directing the EDMC to ensure garbage dumped in the trans-Yamuna area by striking workers is cleared, is unlikely to provide succour.
On Tuesday, a bench of Justice Indira Bannerjee and Justice Anil Kumar Chawla issued notices to the corporation and the Delhi government seeking their response by March 1 on a petition which alleged that the municipal workers were protesting as they have not been paid their salary.
The government told the court that it has released funds, Rs 605 crore, for pay to the east corporation workers till March.
But EDMCcommissioner Mohanjeet Singh said it needed an additional Rs 431 crore to pay salaries till March.
The civic authorities have been saddled with funds crunch since the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) was trifurcated in 2012. The EDMC was the worst hit.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) also issued notices on Tuesday to the Centre, the Delhi government and the sanitation workers’ union about the strike.
The three corporations are controlled by the BJP and the Arvind Kejriwal government has often accused rival party councilors of siphoning off funds meant for salaries. The BJP denies the charges.
The MCDs go to the polls later this year and these issues are likely to be key campaign planks, further politicising the ongoing tussle, which is largely administrative.
“It is better that the BJP and AAP resolve their political vendetta and release the pending salaries of all workers immediately. Also, they should stop playing politics,” said Rajendra Mewati, general secretary of the United Front of MCD Employees.
The union said the state government was trying to resolve problems of sanitation workers but has forgotten about employees in other departments.
“What about other workers engaged in engineering, teaching, horticulture, health and other departments? When the financial budget is prepared why don’t the officials make provision for payment of salaries?” said AP Khan, the general secretary of the forum of civic engineers.
A section of government teachers also threatened to strike work, which will affect thousands of students in state-run schools. Giriraj Sharma of the Akhil Delhi Prathmik Karmachari Shikshan Sangh said teachers had not been given salary for at least two months by the north and east corporations.
The city’s nearly 4,000 workers in five of the prominent hospitals run by municipal corporations also threatened to follow suit. The busiest of these hospitals, Hindu Rao in north Delhi, alone caters to close to 5,000 outpatients each day.