Visitors and commuters in Amritsar, particularly the walled city area, were seen covering their faces on Monday to ward off the foul smell emanating from the garbage heaps which have got accumulated in the wake of the ongoing indefinite strike of sanitation workers that entered its fifth day.
The walled city area is one of the most frequented from religious, trade and tourism point of view. The protesting sanitation workers, however, have refused to remove the garbage, barring some religious shrines.
The city has been badly hit by the strike after the garbage removal has been suspended since Thursday. The ongoing protest is part of the state-level stir by safai karmachari unions in Punjab.
Nearly 2,000 sanitation workers of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation are up in arms against the state government’s proposal to re-launch the solid waste management project that had failed after the firm that was handling it had pulled out.
The protesters have termed the proposal as disastrous for the municipal corporation sanitation workers.
The municipal corporation carried cleaning operation in Katra Ahluwalia on Monday morning during which some garbage was removed.
MC officials said of the nearly 650 metric tonnes of garbage lifted from all over the city, around 200 metric tonnes was lifted from the walled city alone every day.
Gaurav Dhawan, a shopkeeper from Katra Ahluwalia, said heaps of garbage were lying outside his shop.
“Though the municipal corporation conducted some cleaning here on Monday, the area is very filthy due to garbage heaps accumulated here since the strike began,” Dhawan said.
Tourists visiting the walled city area, particularly the Golden Temple, were a hassled lot, trying to ward off the stench.
Municipal commissioner DPS Kharbanda said a meeting of the leaders of all the workers’ unions participating in the strike was called on Monday.
“The protesting workers have been urged to keep in mind the inconvenience faced by devotees visiting the religious places, particularly Golden Temple, Durgiana Temple and Gurudwara Shaheedan,” he said.
Kharbanda claimed that the workers had agreed to clean the areas outside these shrines every day, despite the ongoing strike, but retracted his statement later on. Surinder Tona, a union leader, the protesting workers wanted the proposal implementing the solid waste management project scrapped.
“The project would hurt the sanitation workers employed with the municipal corporation as they are from economically weaker sections.
Even if the government wants to go ahead with it, it should assure the workers would not be affected in any way,” he said.
Mayor Bakshi Ram Arora said, “Municipal corporation officials have been asked to sort out things and ensure that normal lifting of garbage is initiated in a day or two.”