The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday asked why the East Delhi Municipal Corporation could not mechanise its operations if it does not have the resources to pay its sanitation workers.
The green body asked the civic body to look at rationalising the staff to cut costs in order to tide over the financial crunch.
“Why do you need (about) 15,000 employees (if you can’t afford it)? Why not mechanise tasks? Out of the total task force, how many are ghost employees? Have you carried out any study for rationalisation of staff? Tell your officers not to waste energy on fictitious documents and work on ground instead... Maybe you need more staff, maybe you need less staff. Maybe you need more mechanisation (of tasks),” said the bench.
The three-judge bench asked why questioned about why they had failed to pay their safai karamcharis for two months. The sanitation workers are on strike since January 5 leading to a garbage menace in the region.
The stakeholders were supposed to respond to similar concerns raised on Thursday by the NGT. The three-member bench, headed by chairperson Swatanter Kumar, took the corporation to task for letting people “suffer” because of their “ill-planning”, and refused to accept the justification for the lapse in payment.
When informed that the corporation was facing a cash crunch, the bench asked how they could have run out of money, when earlier it was noted that they saved some money in the 2014-15 financial year. “If you had saved money (last year) and you received more money this year, why were you unable to pay?” NGT asked.
“Why didn’t you protect the money allotted to you for payment of salaries? Why don’t you apply your common sense that if you don’t pay salaries, your work will get affected?” the bench said when informed that the money was exhausted in October. Kumar said that the salary head must take the topmost priority.
This is the fifth time that EDMC workers have gone on strike since 2015, over non-payment of wages.
Citing inefficiency in the face of piling garbage, the corporation was also slammed for inefficiency. “As a corporation you have done nothing. You have not cleaned Delhi. Sewage is flowing in the drains, there is no waste management plan and rivers are being polluted every day. Why should you have such a large number of employees if they don’t work,” the bench said.
Though representatives from corporations, Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), and other stakeholders were present at the hearing, “none were of any help,” noted the bench, as most of them failed to provide comprehensive answers to the questions raised.
The EDMC has been directed to provide details of its income, planned and unplanned expenditure, and the amount of waste generated in areas under its jurisdiction. The chief secretary was also directed to organise a meeting of all the stakeholders to formulate a comprehensive plan to deal with municipal solid waste (MSW).
The Delhi government was also pulled up and asked what steps they had taken to enforce the ban on disposable plastic, and reduction of dumped waste.
The CPCB and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) were also asked to provide details of the directions given to solve the MSW menace in Delhi, and whether they have taken any action against violators, before the next hearing on Tuesday.