The Kejriwal government and the BJP-run municipal bodies slugged it out in the high court on Monday, as garbage piles grew bigger, hospitals remained deserted and schools locked on the sixth day of the civic staff strike.
Delhi was staring at a civic crisis as garbage-lined streets raised a stink and fear of disease. Not just garbage collection but all services have come to a standstill with municipal corporation employees — doctors, nurses, sanitation workers and teachers — staying away from work, accusing the AAP government of not releasing funds for salaries and other dues.
The government, however, denied the charge and blamed “massive financial mismanagement” by civic bodies for the mess.
Ruling out any more assistance, it told the Delhi high court the civic bodies had been non-cooperative and opaque towards “the vital issues of funds utilisation and management of municipal affairs”.
“..the respondent (government) is unable to assist the corporations any further than what has already been provided,” it said, adding adequate funds had been provided.
The civic bodies had also failed to collect Rs 1,555 crore in property tax from the Delhi Development Authority. They were also free to recover property tax from unauthorised colonies.
Countering the claims, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) said the government had not given Rs 627.93 crore since 2012.
EDMC had sought a Rs 500-crore “bailout package” from lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, counsel Mini Pushkarna said.
Sanitation workers had got salaries till December but Rs 217 crore was needed to clear dues of all employees, including retired staff, many of who had not been paid for the last three months, she said.
“Municipal corporations have been attempting to get their statutory nonfeasance excused or justified by creating a boogey of non-release of funds…,” the government told the court.
It had “released 100% funds” for 2015-16 -- Rs 892 crore to the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, Rs 830 crore to South Delhi Municipal Corporation and `465 crore to EDMC as on January 27.
During the day, the Delhi cabinet cleared a proposal to seek Jung’s intervention to ensure that the DDA released the money to the civic bodies.
Civic workers’ pleaded their case with Jung as garbage war played out is some parts of the city.
Protesters dumped trash outside the offices of AAP MLAs, including deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. Bags of garbage were also hurled at tourism minister Kapil Mishra’s home and those of some other AAP leaders.
Mid-day meals, delivered by NGOs, were sent back from most MCD schools. As many as 2,000 consulting doctors, 5,000 resident doctors and 13,000 nurses stayed away from work, and only emergency wings functioned at hospitals.
The city’s eight municipal hospitals are visited by more than 20,000 people daily while 2,000 patients are admitted at any given time.
“Tomorrow, the doctors will be paid the salary for November and two days later the salary for December will be released,” MCD spokesperson Yogendra Maan said.
The doctors were unmoved. “We have to go on strike every time to get paid. We will call off the strike only after the MCD finds a permanent solution,” said Dr RR Gautam, who is the president of the MCD consulting doctors’ union.