New Delhi: Even as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has brought out full-page advertisements in national newspapers on the huge decline in the number of Dengue cases in Delhi, the army of Domestic Breeding Checkers (DBC) went on indefinite strike from Monday, demanding permanent status. The DBCs are employed by the municipal corporations, all of which are under Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) control.
Under the banner of the Anti-Malaria Ekta Karamchari Union, around 3,500 DBCs under the three municipal corporations in Delhi held a protest in front of the Civic Centre, the municipal headquarters, here on Monday. The workers said they have been engaged in this work for over two decades on contract basis and are demanding that their jobs be made permanent.
The DBCs have played a key role in the control of mosquito-borne diseases, such as Malaria and Dengue, but despite this, their demands have not been heeded. Earlier, too, these workers had gone on protests and strike and had been given a written assurance by the MCD and the government that they would be made permanent.
These days, the Arvind Kejriwal-run Delhi government has been plastering television and print media with advertisements on how Delhi has seen an 80% decline in the number of Dengue cases. In the ad, the Chief Minister ends by appealing to people to devote their time to check the spread of Dengue -- “Every Sunday, 10 Weeks, 10 a.m, 10 Minutes”. However, the entire advertisement fails to even mention the people behind the decline in the number of Dengue cases in the Capital.
To check the spread of Malaria, Dengue and Chikunguniya, the DBCs go door-to-door to create awareness and check the breeding of mosquitoes. If need be, they also spray insecticides or distribute those. Though the total number of DBCs is 3,500, considering the spread of the city and the population, this is much below the required manpower for the purpose.
In any case, these DBCs, who have been working hard to combat the spread of vector-borne diseases in the Capital, say they are often not been paid for months. Even after working for about 23 years now, these workers have got no recognition from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Which is why these workers said they had been forced to go on indefinite strike and relay hunger strike from Monday.
Last year, too, the DBCs had conducted a 17-day hunger strike in front of the MCD headquarters. At that time, their wages had not been released for months. They also demanded that their jobs be made permanent.
The union said that despite giving assurances two years ago, the MCD had not yet moved on any of their demands. Taking cognizance of this ‘anti-worker’ stance of MCD and the sentiments of the DBCs, the union decided on an indefinite strike. The strike is being supported by the Delhi state committee of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions.
The secretary of the Anti-Malaria Ekta Karamchari Union, Madan Pal, told Newsclick that the workers had not been paid since the past three months. “This is not a one-time occurrence. It happens time and again. When we threaten an agitation, they release a month’s salary, whereas permanent MCD workers get their salaries on the 31st of every month,” he said.
The other problem, he said, was that DBCs have been slogging for the past 23 years but they have been given no posts or designations – such as field workers, clerk among others.
“To top it, the MCD says DBCs are not its employees, whereas we do all this work,” said Pal, adding that “sometimes, we are also made to do other work that does not fall under our purview, such as removal of hoardings, ensure house tax payments etc”.
Despite this, DBCs have not been given any posts or positions and do not even have basic rights of employees.
Pal said DBCs are paid only Rs 13,000 a month, and that too never arrives on time, which makes it very difficult for them to take care of their family expenses.
“Most of us are stuck, as we are aged 40-50 years, and cannot look for other jobs. We have given our entire work life to the MCD, yet it doesn’t consider us as their employees. We have a straight demand – create posts for us and make us permanent,” said Pal.
The DBCs are also demanding that in case of death during work life, one member of the family should be given a job in lieu. Many a times, when DBCs have gone to check mosquito breeding, they have been bitten and some of them have even died, they added.