Raising A Stink: MCD Workers Survive On Salaries of Rs 9000

Imagine supporting a family of six on a salary of Rs 9000 and owing creditors more than twice that amount. This is why EDMC and NDMC workers are on strike

WrittenBy:Ishan Kukreti
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For six days running, the sanitation workers of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) have been on strike. Today, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) joined the strike. This is how they’re hoping that the authorities will address issues that have been a recurring problem in Delhi.

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Since October 2015, these workers have not been paid their salaries. Regularised workers have arrears pending from as far back as 2010. Apart from the basics, the workers have also demanded medical benefits post retirement, cashless cards, and the regularisation of contractual workers who have joined after 2013.

“This happens almost every third month, despite High Court orders to release our salaries by the seventh of each month,” said Sanjay Singh, a sweeper with EDMC. Singh is a contractual worker. This means his salary is a paltry Rs 9,400. He has four school-going kids – two girls and two boys – and a wife to support.

Since October, he has been living on credit.

“I owe the milkman around Rs 4,500, the shopkeeper around Rs12,000,” said Singh. “On top of these, I’ve taken small loans. In total I owe people around Rs 20,000.” Singh doesn’t know how long he’s going to be able to continue with the protest or how he will repay his creditors.

“I do not know what will I do,” he said. “You need money to live. Why can’t they give us our salaries?”

On January 10, the day EDMC had called a press conference at its head office in East Delhi’s Patparganj, the main roads in the area looked clean. But just a few kilometres from the head office, in areas like Arjun Nagar and Laxami Nagar, garbage dumpsters were overflowing on the roads. By Tuesday, five days into the strike, the corporation had managed to dispose of 2,281 metric tonnes (MT) of garbage. For an area that generates 4000-4,500 (MT) of garbage daily, that’s nothing. On a normal day, approximately 100 government trucks and 25 private trucks pick up the garbage from the area under the corporation. Since January 5, 54 trucks have been doing all the work.   

EDMC officials place the responsibility upon Delhi governments past and present. Mayor of EDMC Satya Sharma described the decision to set up EDMC – it was set up by the Sheila Dikshit administration in 2012 – as “financially flawed”.  

This year, the Delhi government released Rs119 crore on January 9, to pay workers’ salaries. The corporation wants Rs 431 crore more to pay the 30,000 employees till March. Additionally, it wants Rs 582 crore to clear the arrears of employees.

The officials provided a breakdown of the amount EDMC should get under the Fourth Delhi Finance Commission and how much it has got. The difference is huge: Rs 4,928 crore.

YearJustified as per 4th DFC

(in crore)

Fund Released

(in crore)

Short

(in crore)

2012-131462.06429.351032.71
2013-141642.80416.901225.90
2014-151774.31399.581374.73
2015-161760.94465.521295.42
Total6640.111711.354928.76

While the breakdown seems to strategically miss out on the figures for the year 2016-17, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia provided those. And as one would expect, the two versions don’t match.  

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At the press conference held yesterday, EDMC officials urged journalists to “spread their message to the public” while offering water and a shiny box with eatables. It didn’t give the impression of being cash-starved.     

The Mayor also announced that Rs119 crore (released by the Delhi government) has been disbursed as salaries.

“As soon as we got the money from the government, we transferred them to the workers’ accounts. Within 15 minutes we did that,” claimed Jitender Chaudhary, standing committee chairman of EDMC.

However, those 15 minutes haven’t helped to pacify disgruntled workers, some of whom decided to dump heaps of garbage in front of Shahdara MLA Ram Niwas Goel’s home.

“No one has been paid yet,” said daily wage sweeper Rajesh Singh Beniwal. “Even if some were, we’d get to know. I can show you my bank details. They are lying.” Beniwal, like Singh, has growing debts at his local shop. “Since October, I’ve borrowed some Rs 25,000,” he said.

Although he has been working for MCD since 1995, Beniwal has not been regularised. He has two girls and two sons – a family that is too large for him to support. Beniwal has sent one of his boys to live with his brother in Mumbai. He wants to get regularised, not only because he needs the money but also because he’s done his time.

“One is entitled to get regularised after 240 days of work, but they don’t do it,” said Beniwal. “My application for making me a regular employee is going from one desk to another since 2004,” he said. He said that in 2003, MCD regularised 7,500 workers, but those who applied after that date are stuck in limbo.

Regularisation is one of the main demands of the workers because there is a big difference in the salaries of “substitute workers”, which is the official term for the non-regularised, and regular workers. The former get Rs 9,400 per month; the latter, between Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000. And as Singh pointed out, “What can you buy in Rs 9,000?”

No wonder then that the strike is gaining in strength. However, even those leading the protests are aware that this is not a long-term solution. Rajendra Mewati, who heads up the United Front of MCD Employees union, said, “This is a bad tradition that they are setting, that only when one strikes, they release funds.”

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