MCD mess and battle of egos: Why Delhi civic body workers must insist on solution, not compromise

Enough is enough. Stop your perverse, self-serving blame game, now. Our salaries and lives are more important than your politics. This should be unequivocal message from the striking corporation workers in Delhi to both the AAP and the BJP. As garbage accumulates on the streets of the National Capital, students are sent back from corporation-run schools and hospitals refuse to entertain patients, a temporary compromise on the salary issue won't work anymore. There has to be a permanent solution. The city is suffering as a collateral damage from the strike, which enters its ninth day on Thursday. It cannot afford to be indulgent about its politicians.

Arvind Kejriwal. Reuters

Arvind Kejriwal. Reuters

A solution is possible only when there is dialogue and continuous engagement among the political players. As things stand now, there's no such hope. The AAP, which runs the Delhi government, and the BJP, which controls the three corporations, have taken mutual acrimony to such levels that it is difficult to expect them to get into a mature conversation. As the recent developments show they have turned callous about the city and the people they represent.

On Wednesday, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal offered a Rs 551 crore loan to the East and North civic bodies to help them tide over the salary crisis. North was promised Rs 142 crore as stamp duty dues. The corporations were quick to refuse it saying they want their legitimate dues cleared, not a loan. The striking employees refused to call off their strike saying they want a permanent solution not a deferment of the crisis. The government's grant would take care of their salaries till 31 January this year. After that what? Do we go on another strike for February’s salaries? They ask.

Kejriwal would like to believe that the BJP-led central government is creating a situation for the imposition of central rule in Delhi. He also wants fresh elections for the corporations. In his address from Bangalore on Wednesday he wanted to know where’s all the money allotted to the corporations going? He claimed that the three MCDs were reluctant to get their accounts audited. The mayors reacted saying they had no problem with audit of accounts since there’s no wrong-doing involved. At this point it is difficult to find out who is telling truth.

One point, however, is clear. The poor financial condition of the civic bodies is a legacy issue. It began much before Kejriwal’s government took charge of Delhi. The trifurcation of the unified Delhi corporation in 2012 resulted in heavy financial burdens on all three, at least the North and East corporations which do not have enough sources of revenue. South houses big business establishments and posh residential houses. The revenue it earns is just adequate for it. The corporations have been in the red for some time now, it has just reached a point where it is not manageable anymore.

What the present situation requires is a mature approach from all involved. Both parties have shown they are incapable of it. The Congress, which is partly responsible for the crisis, has escaped flak as the other two are busy running each other down. Will the AAP call for an all-party meet to discuss the issue and find a conclusion to the issue? Looks impossible. Will the BJP government, which has major say in Delhi’s affairs, step in and seek a solution. No. There is political capital to be made out of miseries of people. So no party will take the initiative.

In the situation of such deadlock, citizens have to take matters into their own hands. Kejriwal himself was a product of this line of thinking. He is in power today because he highlighted the people-politician disconnect and advocated fiercely that people should take the fight to the politicians. Being a people’s chief minister – that is what he still claims to be – it’s imperative that he allows people to have their say in the corporation matter. If it means election, so be it.

Politicians have taken it too far. It’s not acceptable anymore. There has to be an answer from them for what is happening in Delhi.

Updated Date: Feb 04, 2016 12:40 PM

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