Monday, October 1, 2018

No end in sight to east Delhi’s trash woes - The Hindu

EDMC safai karamcharis demand arrears among other things; garbage piling up on streets since Sept 12

        East Delhi Residents’ Welfare Association Joint Front president B.S. Vohra took a selfie opposite Rashid Market in Laxmi Nagar on September 29 as part of his ‘Selfie with Garbage” campaign.
Garbage has been piling up on the streets of east Delhi for two weeks since safai karamcharis employed by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EMDC) went on strike, their fourth since 2015, on September 12.
Apart from regularisation, they have been demanding payment of salary arrears and benefits, like sanctioning of cashless medical cards and dispersal of retirement benefits, on time.
MCD Swachhata Karamchari Union president Sanjay Gehlot said on Sunday, “We are willing to call off the strike if all workers employed till 2017 are regularised.”
However, it is unclear when the deadlock will get resolved — thanks to contradictions between the bureaucracy and the political leadership within the cash-strapped EDMC, which is fighting the Delhi government for funds in court. At a House meeting on September 26, a resolution was passed directing the EDMC Commissioner to regularise all karamcharis employed by the civic body since 1998. But financial implications of this will be staggering, said officials.
“About 9,210 worker stand to be regularised. If this is done, the corporation will have an additional liability of ₹1,500 crore in arrears and an increase of ₹250 crore in monthly payment of wages. It will be imprudent for me to take such an action when we are already in the red,” said EDMC Commissioner Ranbir Singh.
Mr. Singh said he had put forth an alternative solution — as and when karamcharis retire, the same number of staffers be regularised on the same day. He claimed the proposal was accepted initially but rejected when brought in front of the EDMC Mayor and the Standing Committee Chairman.
“The political leadership is intervening and working counter-intuitively towards governance in the corporation,” he said.
Responding to Mr. Singh’s allegation, Standing Committee Chairperson Satpal Singh said, “He is lying about the karamcharis not taking up the offer because of us. We did not say a word or interfere.”
On the political leadership’s decision to move a motion seeking the EDMC Commissioner’s removal on Monday, Mr. Satpal Singh said, “The Commissioner is trying to make the political wing invalid. He is not even willing to start the process of regularisation. He is only interested in running the corporation like a business and figuring out ways to make money.”
However, EDMC officials maintained the corporation cannot afford to make all payments unless it gets funds from the Delhi government. Officials in the civic body’s Accounts Department said the corporation has a liability of ₹1,796 crore. Of this, arrears due to the nearly 7,000 safai karamcharis regularised in 2013 amount to ₹600 crore. The EDMC has been sanctioned ₹590 crore from the Delhi government this year and is expected to generate about ₹1,000 crore from other revenue streams, including property tax, fines and advertisements.
In a report submitted to the Chief Secretary on September 5, the EDMC had stated that it has a minimum monthly expense of ₹192.5 crore, including wages, contractual payments, medical expenses and court attachments. Following court orders, ₹60 crore of this amount is kept aside to pay salaries of safai karamcharis on time. The report said pensions and salaries of group A, B and C employees have been pending for two months, and gratuity and other retirement benefits since October 2015.
EDMC Deputy Controller of Accounts Hari Prasad explained, “The problem is not the amount the government disperses but the formula by which the funds are divided between the three corporations.”
While the government has not enacted the recommendations of the Fourth Finance Commission in full, which provide a new formula for distribution of funds to the three corporations, Mr. Prasad said, “They tell us they are distributing funds based on a formula given by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. But one corporation should not have a say on how much money another corporation gets.”
The Delhi High Court has on multiple occasions directed the city government to disburse funds to the corporations according to recommendations of the Fourth Finance Commission. However, the government has appealed against the decision and the matter is being heard in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the BJP-led corporation’s request to workers to get back to work has fallen on deaf ears. The EDMC even filed a police complaint against union leaders, alleging that they had threatened corporation employees.
“They [the EDMC] have been saying that they will fire us but they cannot do that,” said Mr. Gehlot.
Since the strike started, the amount of garbage collected has seen a dip. While an average of 2,212 metric tonnes (MT) of garbage was collected during the first 15 days of September, the collection amount after the strike has consistently stayed below average. EDMC officials said while 80% of waste — whatever comes from households — is still being collected but streets are not being swept.

‘Selfie With Garbage’

Meanwhile, the residents seem to have lost patience. East Delhi Residents’ Welfare Association Joint Front president B.S. Vohra, who started the ‘Selfie With Garbage’ campaign on September 29, claimed to have received 150 photographs on Sunday.
with thanks: The Hindu: LINK

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