Delhi’s Garbage Mess is Latest Political Battleground

Saturday, June 13, 2015
Over 15,000 tonnes of garbage continues to rot in the summer sun (photo: HT)

11,000 sanitation workers in Delhi may have called off their 12-day long agitation, but the possibility of future strikes still haunts the municipal corporations in the capital, as rival political parties are using the garbage mess to score political brownie points.

The workers were on a strike since June 1 against the non-payment of salaries for over two months, with the AAP-led state government and BJP-led corporations blaming each other for the mess.

Despite Rs 493 crore ($77 million) being released by the government on Friday, it may not be sufficient for the payment of salaries to all the employees. Municipal officials said an additional Rs 100 crore ($15.6 million) would be needed.

The confrontation between AAP and BJP ended on Friday after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi took up the issue. He told agitators outside the East Delhi Municipal Corporation office in Patparganj that the strike was the only way for civic workers to seek their rights.

Minutes after Rahul initiated his interaction with the sanitation workers, BJP leaders of the Delhi unit reached out to Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung, seeking early release of funds for the corporation.

Desperate to not be seen on the wrong side, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia tweeted that the Aam Aadmi Party government had already released the funds.

Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay, however, said it was the effort of mayors of the municipal corporations that had resulted in the allocation of funds.

"Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi are shedding crocodile tears only for the sake of the votes. If the Delhi government was worried about sanitation, it would have paid the funds and consequently avoided such strike," he said.

Meanwhile, Delhi Pradesh Safai Mazdoor Union president Rajendra Mewati claimed the strike had been called off by only one workers’ union and the other 17 would continue the agitation.

“The corporation is trying to cheat its workers by spreading a false message that their demands have been met. This is not the case. We will be protesting on Saturday,” he told Indian Express.

In the meantime, over 15,000 tonnes of garbage continues to rot in the summer sun on the streets and it will take several days for this to be cleared, leaving east Delhi exposed to a potential health crisis.

- Karan Singh

To Learn More:

Garbage mess: Delhi stinks as AAP government & Centre spar over MCD funds (Economic Times)

One union calls off strike, 17 more to continue (by Aditi Vatsa and Aniruddha Ghosal, Indian Express)

Delhi turns into dump yard: Funds released may not be sufficient to pay salaries to municipal workers (by Mohit Sharma, Hindustan Times)

Power play over garbage as people suffer in East Delhi (by Mohit Sharma and Ashni Dhaor, Hindustan Times)


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