North Delhi sanitation staff unpaid for March; MCD, govt trade blame
The workers said they have been struggling to sustain their families and most have run out of whatever little savings they had been dipping into.Updated: Apr 23, 2020 23:07 IST
Nearly 27,000 sanitation workers employed with the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, and mostly deployed on Covid-19 duty, have not got their salaries for the month of March.
The workers said they have been struggling to sustain their families and most have run out of whatever little savings they had been dipping into.
The north corporation, on its part, blamed the Delhi government for its inability to pay its staffers and said it was yet to receive the quarterly funds from the AAP-led government. On Wednesday, Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, leader of the opposition in the Delhi assembly, wrote to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal urging him to immediately release funds to the corporation.
“The financial condition of the north corporation is most serious. Due to an acute shortage of funds, it has not been able to pay salaries to its overall staff of 57,000 and 24,000 pensioners. I urge the CM to provide immediate financial assistance to the civic body,” Singh wrote.
North corporation commissioner Varsha Joshi said, “We are waiting for funds to be released by the Delhi government in order to disburse salaries.”
However, the Delhi government refuted the civic body’s claims. “These claims are baseless. All dues have been paid. It is unfortunate that the BJP ( which rules the civic bodies) is playing politics in such difficult times, especially when the Delhi government is fully cooperating and working with the Centre to tackle the spread of Covid-19,” a government spokesperson said.
cash-strapped corporation is now exploring the option of seeking donations from the public, on the lines of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) that put out an appeal on its website seeking financial help from people to meet expenses incurred on Covid-19 related arrangements. “The SDMC requests all to generously contribute by transferring funds to (this) account...,” read the appeal put out on its website last week.
The SDMC said it needed funds as the workload has multiplied and so has the requirement for disinfectants and PPE kits.
SDMC chief spokesperson Radha Krishan said, “Our work entails huge expenditure. We have 112 health centres that include general dispensaries, specialised chest/respiratory diseases clinics and maternity centres. Besides these, we also run quarantine centres in areas such as Bakkarwala and at the Poornima Sethi Hospital. We have 37 containment zones where we are carrying out extensive disinfection drives. We need money for these.” The civic body, however, did not comment on how much money it has so far managed to crowd source.
The North corporation, on its part, manages six big municipal hospitals, including Bara Hindu Rao hospital, a designated Covid screening centre.
Joshi said, “We are in need of money and have had elaborate discussions over whether we should start accepting donations on the lines of the SDMC. However, we felt that it could get complicated. Instead, we are taking donations in kind --- in hand sanitisers, gloves, masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) kits.”
With civic agencies struggling for funds, the worst-hit are the sanitation workers who are at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19.
Sooraj (who goes by the first name), 33, employed in the corporation’s Civil Lines zone, said he had to take a loan of ₹5,000 to buy ration and other essentials for his family of six. “I make ₹ 12,200 a month and am not able to save much. I have not got my salary for March. Is this what we deserve after risking our lives every day collecting hazardous waste during the pandemic?” he said.
The sanitation workers’ union has raised the matter with the municipal authorities. “They told us they were waiting for funds (from the government). The workers risk their lives every day by going out to collect garbage even from houses under quarantine as well as medical facilities. Is this how the government will reward them? Most of them are unable to arrange two proper meals for their families,” Vijender Bagdi, head of Akhil Bhartiya Safai Mazdoor Sangh, north Delhi, said.
He added that the workers are not given any protective gear such as gloves or masks while handling waste from houses and garbage collection points and they are at high risk of catching the contagious infection.