Five strikes in one year raise one big stink

Five strikes in one year raise one big stink

As many as five protests by municipal employees have taken place in the last year underscoring the Aam Aadmi Party government’s inability to strike a balance between people’s needs and its own ideological differences with the BJP-ruled municipalities.

Recently, civic workers called off their 15-day-long agitation at a time when Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal was preparing to give a report card on his government’s performance to the public.

The stink raised by the tussle between the Delhi government and the three municipal corporations also exposed the knee-jerk response the AAP regime came up with each time it found itself on a sticky wicket.

During the last strike, the Delhi government waited for a week before offering additional funds to cash-starved North and East Corporations while the city was held to ransom by protesting municipal sanitation workers and other employees.

Demonstrators paralysed the city by dumping garbage on the streets and turning areas under the East and North corporations into huge dumpyards. This, in turn, led to frequent traffic snarls with commuters having a harrowing time in reaching their destinations.

The city government kept indulging in a blame game by asking Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to get the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) clear its over Rs 1,500 crore dues.

“If the DDA pays over Rs 1,500 to the MCDs, then the strike will get over as they will have money to give salaries to their protesting employees,” AAP ministers kept saying. A couple of days later, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung gave a loan of Rs 300 crore from Delhi Development Agency to both the municipalities.

While the municipal corporations accused the AAP regime of not implementing the recommendations of the Delhi Fourth Finance Commission, which increases their share in government’s taxes, the Delhi government reiterated its stand that the Centre should first abide by the Commission’s report. 

“The Delhi Fourth Finance Commission report is a package. You can’t have some parts of it implemented according to your convenience,” said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal from Bengaluru in a video conference with Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.

“If the Centre hands over the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to the AAP government, we will give two per cent of the Delhi government’s taxes within two hours,” he had said, while announcing a bailout package of Rs 693 crore. Of this, Rs 551 core was given in the form of loan to the two funds-deprived municipalities.

East Corporation Mayor Harsh Deep Malhotra takes a swipe at Aam Aadmi Party government’s rider on the implementation of the Fourth Finance Commission report.

 “Next they would want Rashpati Bhavan under their control, then Delhi Police, so on and so forth. What does it mean? How can they get control over the DDA?” 

“They lack the knowledge of governance. They are trying to run the Delhi government as their private limited business. All their demands need amendments and some of their objections might require constitutional amendments,” he says.

Clearing the air over the Delhi Fourth Finance Commission report, he says it has only given suggestions to the Union government. “Its suggestions aren’t binding on the Centre. The Delhi Fourth Finance Commission, however, doesn’t even have a legitimate right to give suggestions to the Centre. It’s like an SHO directing a DCP.

 Can an SHO direct a DCP? That is what they are doing,” Malhotra says.The mayor says the previous Congress government knew how the system works.
 “Former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit knew that it was the city government’s responsibility. So she never picked up a fight with the municipal corporations. She gave the funds as loan but not as grants. The corporations were not in a position to bargain so they accepted the amount as a loan to distribute salaries to theiremployees,” he adds.

Salary scam allegedThe Delhi government alleged that the depleting financial condition of the three municipalities was the result of a “salary scam” by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“It’s not the mayors who have committed this fraud. Their senior party leaders are the real culprits. Why aren’t the BJP asking DDA to clear its dues which run into several hundred crores. The government has given all the money to the corporations to pay salaries to their employees. The government doesn’t owe any money to these municipalities,” said Delhi Tourism Minister Kapil Mishra.

Mayors of the three corporations say they are ready for a CBI inquiry as demanded by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal if only a CBI probe will be conducted against the corrupt Delhi government departments and its MLAs.

Even Kapil Mishra’s statements invited the wrath of sanitation employees who littered the area outside his house in Yamuna Vihar and his nameplate was smeared with black ink. The municipal corporations are also up in arms over the sanctions imposed by the city government on the municipal corporations in lieu of funds. “The Delhi government has anti-Dalit agenda as it has given funds to the two cash-strapped municipalities on the condition that they will not recruit anybody particularly under Group-IV category which comprises safai karamcharis and beldars,” says North Corporation Mayor Ravinder Gupta.

The mayor, standing committee chairman Mohan Bhardwaj and Leader of House Yogender Chandolia slammed Kejriwal for imposing “anti-Dalit conditions” in lieu of funds. They said the corporations will not abide by such discriminatory conditions. On the contrary, they will treat the Rs 551 crore as grants under the Third Finance Commission and not as “loan”.

“The Kejriwal government is providing conditional funds. It is not alms but a constitutional right of the corporations. It is a political gimmick of the government to trap the corporations into a debt as the CM is eyeing the 2017 municipal elections,” the three mayors had said.

Cash-strapped North and East corporations’ employees including sanitation workers, teachers and engineers, went on strike on January 27 demanding timely payment of salaries and clearance of arrears. On January 30, doctors, nurses and paramedical staff joined the agitation. Even sanitation workers of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation struck work showing solidarity with their co-workers.

Last Monday, a majority of safai karamcharis and engineers suspended their agitation over unpaid wages and the employees’ unions called off the agitation two days after that.

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