Garbage wars in Delhi: Kejriwal blinks, doles out Rs 500 crore to striking workers
Kejriwal also appealed to the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) employees to protest outside the residences of the central government’s ministers if they don’t get salaries for June, because the Delhi government was “left with no money”.
New Delhi: Ending a 10-day deadlock, the Aam Aadmi Party on government finally bowed to the striking sanitation workers of the two civic bodies of the national capital and on Monday agreed to release Rs 500 crore for the payments of their salaries.
"We have decided to release Rs 500 crore to the North and East Delhi Municipal Corporations to pay your arrears till May. The fund will be released tomorrow (on Tuesday)," Chief Minister Arvind Kejrwal told a gathering of the workers of the two civic bodies at city’s Ramlila Maidan.
He also appealed to the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi) employees to protest outside the residences of the central government’s ministers if they don’t get salaries for June, because the Delhi government was “left with no money”.
Sanitation workers from the North and East Delhi Municipal Corporations had not been paid their salaries for the last three months due to which they had been on strike for the last 10 days, resulting in piles of lying unattended across the city. In protest they had also strewn garbage in East Delhi’s Patparganj and Mayur Vihar area.
The Delhi government has no jurisdiction over the MCD, which is controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The civic body’s funds come from the Centre through the Delhi government, which allocates the money to all three civic agencies in the city as per their requirement.
Following the splitting of the erstwhile MCD into EDMC (East Delhi Municipal Corporation), NDMC (North Delhi Municipal Corporation) and SDMC (South Delhi Municipal Corporation) by the Congress government in 2012, the financial health of the civic body has deteriorated. Among the reasons being cited for the cash crunch are the increase in the number of councillors and the introduction of new norms for property tax assessment.
“At the time of trifurcation of Municipal Corporation of Delhi in 2012, it was well known that the EDMC would be a revenue deficit body. A need of Rs 421 crore subsidy grant was anticipated, but we instead got a loan of Rs 335 crores with hefty interest. We have been forced to pay back around Rs 300 crore in last three years on loan instalments and interest even as development and administrative works suffer,” EDMC Mayor Harsh Malhotra said.
He said even in this current financial quarter, the Delhi government was supposed to give EDMC a grant of Rs 140 crore.
“Instead we have got barely Rs 76 crore. It speaks volumes on dirty politics of the Kejriwal government,” he said, lauding municipal staff of for their performing duty despite salaries not being paid.
The EDMC has 30,000 employees and around 15,000 sanitation workers. It requires Rs 60 crore per month for the disbursement of salaries.
The condition of NDMC is no better. It needs Rs 221 crore every month for disbursement of salaries for around 60,000 employees, including 20,000 sanitation workers. The revenue generation of the civic body stands at around Rs 1,400 crore per year.
NDMC Mayor Ravinder Gupta said, “Today, we have dues of around Rs 1800 crore in unreleased funds and grants being with held by Delhi government.”
Officials at the SDMC claim that the corporation is not “dependent” on the government’s funds and is self-sufficient to meet all its expenses. But the civic agency’s Mayor Subhash Arya accuses the Delhi government of “continuously keeping SDMC in financial crises”.
While the corporation has a revenue of Rs 3,948 crore, its expenditure stands at Rs 3,900 crore.
However, Arya admitted that Delhi’s highest revenue comes from property tax and other taxes in South Delhi. The main sources of its revenue collection are building rent, parking charges, advertisements and property tax.
The three mayors said after the 2012 amendment to the Delhi Municipal Act, it is the “constitutional obligation” of the state government to support the civic bodies and ensure funds for them. But instead of supporting the municipal bodies they say the AAP government has not even released the funds that are due to them.
The heads of the three corporations have demanded that recommendations of the Fourth Finance Commission be implemented.
“Instead of playing politics of dialogue with employees, it will be better if the Delhi government issues an order to pay the municipal funds as recommended by the Third Finance Commission and table the pending Fourth Finance Commission's report in the Delhi Assembly. If it is really sincere as it portrays, the Delhi government should immediately release our share of funds, our Unit Area System dues of revenue, due Property Tax on Delhi government properties and other grants being with held that amount to around Rs 8000 crore,” they said.
Chief Minister Kejriwal has, however, denied any financial aid to the “cash-strapped” civic agencies, asking them to seek Centre’s help instead.
“The Delhi government’s financial situation is not good as there was a deficit of Rs 4,000 crore in revenue target during the last one year, the period when the city was being run by BJP-led Union government,” Kejriwal said in a press statement.
He also said that Delhi pays over Rs 1.31 lakh crore to central government every year but only gets only Rs 2,100 crore in return.
The government has also advised the civic corporations to use the funds judiciously. So schemes like buying flowers for office tables have been given the boot. Earlier, Rs 8,000 was being spent on flowers per day.
Asked about the reasons behind pending salaries of the staff of the three corporations, a senior official said, "The state government released the funds earlier but in education category. Therefore, that could not be used to pay salaries."
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