The 10-day long agitation by sanitation workers demanding scrapping of the solid waste management project was called off on Friday evening amid day-long drama on the assurance that the project would be launched after discussing modalities with them.
The state government gave a written assurance on other demands of agitating workers, including ex gratia, regularisation of jobs, pensions and gratuity to the union leaders. Earlier, local bodies department officials had given verbal assurances to accept these demands.
HT sources revealed that all the issues were discussed and finalised with the agitators on Thursday and it was clearly stated that the written assurance on all other demands would be given Saturday morning, except the scrapping of the project. After this, the union leaders agreed to call off their strike.
The leaders were assured that the letter would be handed over to the agitating employees by deputy commissioner, commissioner of police, MC commissioner and mayor but, later, it was decided to give this privilege to BJP MLA and chief parliamentary secretary KD Bhandari.
Bhandari, who was at Chandigarh to join ruling party MLAs for giving a memorandum to the governor of Punjab against the union government's partial attitude towards the state government, reached the municipal corporation office along with SAD MLA from Adampur Pawan Tinu at 5.45pm to hand over the letter.
All the agitators stayed put at the protest site from 10am waiting for the assurance and the letter. They were addressed by different union leaders throughout the day.
The workers had been on strike since January 15 demanding scrapping of the solid waste management project. The whole city has turned into a garbage dump and residents were apprehending spread of an epidemic.
The agitators, who were earlier threatening to oppose the house meeting, allowed it to go on in a smooth manner. A heavy police force was deployed on the site to avoid any untoward incident.
It was the day of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to express solidarity with the agitators as the party's Rajya Sabha MP Narinder Kashyap reached the MC office along with senior party leaders from the state and assured the agitators of every type of support.
"During the five-year regime by Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, we have regularised the jobs of over 22,000 sweepers. They are getting Rs 18,500 per month with only four hours duty timings. If the government is committed, they can do anything but the ruling party in Punjab is not serious about the issues of sweepers," Kashyap said.
On Thursday, the local leadership of Congress did the same and even on Friday, most of the councilors boycotted the MC house meeting to mark their protest.
Speaking to HT, Bhandari said, "We had assured the agitators that the solid waste management project would be implemented only after taking the sweepers in confidence."
Union leader Chandan Garewal, however, said, "We have not called off the strike fully. Rather, we have postponed it till February 20 as the government has assured us that our demands would be met by then."