New Delhi: Fed up after knocking on multiple doors, the staff of all three arms of the national capital’s municipal corporation have gone on an indefinite strike since January 7– for the second time in less than two months.
Nearly 35 employees’ associations – representing teachers, engineers, nurses, and safai karamcharis belonging to all groups, along with pensioners – have extended support to the strike action, after numerous appeals in addition to court directions to address staff’s grievances went unheard.
Called by an umbrella body, namely Confederation of the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) Employees Union, the work strike has brought civic operations across Delhi, barring some exceptional zones particularly under the South MCD, to a halt since Thursday, January 7.
All the three civic bodies in the national capital – North MCD, East MCD, and South MCD – are currently controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The employees are demanding the municipal bodies to clear the dues relating to their salaries and pensions, among others – an issue faced by the municipal staff consistently for many years now, and has only worsened post the COVID-19 pandemic. The usual delay of two to four months in monthly payments has now risen up to seven months in some cases, a protesting employee told NewsClick on Friday, January 8.
Total strike was also observed for the second day among the teachers, engineers, and safai karamcharis who come under the jurisdiction of North and East civic zones, A P Khan, convenor of the Confederation, told NewsClick. “In the six hospitals in these two zones, only the emergency services are operational, while the OPD (Out Patient Department) remained largely affected. Around 250 dispensaries also remained shut,” he said.
This is because, Khan added, nurses and the paramedic staff along with technical and non-technical medical personnels have not received their salaries for months and as such they were “on strike.”
Further, pushed to the edges by pending payments, teachers and engineers are also abstaining from their duties, Ram Niwas Solanki, general secretary, MCD Teachers’ Association said. “All the zonal offices, along with the entire Civic Centre headquarters have remained closed for work,” he said.
Also read: Salary Delay at Delhi Civic Bodies Push Nearly 1 Lakh Staff to Strike
According to him, the total number of employees who are on strike would be “close to a lakh.” Huge participation is being witnessed at the demonstrations that is being staged at the MCD Civic Centre headquarters since Thursday afternoon, Solanki added.
A similar strike action, that lasted for two months, was staged in the month of November last year as well, which was followed by assurances from the corporations’ officials that the payments will be cleared by the end of the same month.
“We were then told that dues and arrears will be cleared by November 30. However, not even a single payment has been made till now to any of the employees,” Khan rued.
Jai Prakash, mayor, North MCD, told NewsClick that the civic body – infamous for registering one of the worst track records in administrative functioning, if unions are to believe – hasn’t been able to fulfil its promises. “But it is the the Delhi government (led by Aam Aadmi Party) that should be blamed for the current situation,” he told NewsClick.
According to Prakash, an amount of “around 13,000 crore” is yet to be paid by the AAP government to the corporations, disbursal of which would “ease the financial burden”. He added that a cut – of “about 60%” - in the current year payments and non-disbursal of “tax payments” to the corporations is also adding to the woes of the latter.
He argued, “The safai karamcharis and doctors (employed by North MCD) were only paid till October; while the teachers only received their salaries till July,” while stressing the fact on how even the mayors of three corporations raised similar issues with a 13-day dharna outside Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s residence recently.
Also read: Unpaid Salaries: Senior Doctors of North Corp Hospitals in Delhi go on Mass Casual Leave
Durgesh Pathak of Aam Aadmi Party, however, struck a different chord. “Since 15 years, the BJP has done everything to dismantle the corporation – through corruption and what not,” he said.
“After the AAP unearthed a Rs 2,500 crore scam, and with the entire civic staff bearing the brunt of it,” Pathak added that, “its rival is left with “no moral right” to continue ruling the corporation.”
“They must submit their resignation and new elections must be held,” he said.
It should be noted that neither the issue of payment delays to corporation staff in Delhi is new, nor are the protests led by employees, who have “already had enough of the political tussle between AAP and BJP” and instead are pressing for a permanent solution.
“There are 13 court cases of different employees’ groups and pensioners that are pending in the [Delhi’s] High Court,” said Solanki, adding, “We have also approached the Supreme Court recently but failed to secure a date for hearing as yet.” He blamed both AAP and BJP for “engaging into petty politics” rather than “providing any solution.”
“Every time,” Khan, a member of the confederation said, “the employees go on strike, the corporations disburse one month salary to placate the protesters.” This has been happening, since 2016, when the same employees went on an indefinite strike – whose memories have been brought back this time, Khan added.
The frustration of the employees is visible in the memorandum dated January 7 as well, that was addressed to Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal. Saying that the “root cause of the financial crisis lies in the arbitrary & bad decision of TRIFURCATION of erstwhile MCD,” the employees demanded a “unification” of the three bodies.
The trifurcation of the corporation body took place in the year 2012 which was initiated by the then Sheila Dixit-led government.
“We are done with talks and assurances, we need a permanent solution to our problems,” Khan said.