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Delhi sealing drive: In Mayapuri scrap market, implementation of e-waste rules lags due to political slugfest

Even though the Delhi High Court stayed the sealing drive launched in the Mayapuri Industrial Area on Saturday, commercial activities have not kicked-off in the scrap market as traders fear a resumption of the sealing drive if they fail to get a favourable order when the Delhi High Court hears the case again on 26 April.

All scrap businesses which were identified as illegal by the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) shut shop on last week, adding another 10,000 workers, employed both directly and indirectly by the Mayapuri scrap market, into the growing club of unemployed men in India.

 Delhi sealing drive: In Mayapuri scrap market, implementation of e-waste rules lags due to political slugfest

Workers gathered at Mayapuri scrap market. Kangkan Acharya

India’s job market scenario, which is dubbed as the worst in the last 45 years with a 6.1 percent unemployment rate has occupied prime space in the ongoing Lok Sabha Election campaign with Congress, the main Opposition party, picking the issue as its election plank to corner the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre.

The Mayapuri scenario has triggered heated debates in the ongoing poll campaign with the saffron party playing it as a case of unemployment in AAP-ruled Delhi.

“We have not re-started our businesses even after the stay. We hope that the court would deliver an order to protect our livelihood on 26 April. We are unlikely to start our business unless we are provided a solution and feel assured that no sealing drive would be initiated on our businesses again,” says Om Prakash, president, Mayapuri Small Industries Welfare Association.

The reluctance of the traders to resume their businesses has caused much distress among the workers, both daily wage labourers as well as salaried, many of whom have been thronging sealed factories every day since the sealing drive was launched on 13 April, hoping a good news may arrive soon.

"I have been working in the factory for the last 20 years. But suddenly on Saturday (13 April) a group of officials stepped into our factory and asked us to vacate the premises immediately. No sooner we stepped out, the factory was sealed. Now we are all jobless," says Sirazul Haque a worker of P Roy Expeller Works, one of the six factories which were sealed by the DPCC on Saturday. Haque says that the factory he was working has been in operation in Delhi since the late 1950s.

Om Prakash, who is one of the elderly businessman in the market told Firstpost that P Roy Expeller Works is one of the oldest companies in Mayapuri Industrial Area and was shifted to the present location in the late sixties as per a government order.

The Mayapuri imbroglio not only adds to the slump in the Indian job market, but also shows how industries are failing in adapting new environmental rules. Several new environmental laws have come up in India in the recent years and many companies existing prior to these norms have been struggling to comply with them.

One such rule is the E-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, notified by the Government of India in 2011. The 2011 rules prohibit all unauthorised collection and dismantling of e-waste in the capital city from May 1 2012 onwards. Prior to this law, scrap units could openly collect and dismantle e-waste.

Similarly, in the year 2013, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) banned burning of tyres, wires and plastic in the scrap market.

These and several other rules have been put in place to help Delhi fight its 'severe' pollution problem. Recently, Delhi was ranked the most polluted capital in the world by a Greenpeace report, after the national capital suffered nightmarish time due to hazardous level of air quality.

As per a report published in the Down to Earth 80 people die in the capital city everyday due to ailments caused by air pollution.

In the year 2015, the NGT passed and order to shut all the scrap units illegally operating and causing pollution by way of spilling oil, chemical and burning waste.

However, violation of the environmental rules continued. Most recently, the NGT pulled up the Delhi government for not implementing its order as a consequence of which the sealing drive was conducted on Saturday.

Though the DPCC succeeded in sealing six small units, but had to return on account of the violence, ordering the 765 others to vacate their premises within 48 hours. More than 14 persons were injured in the clash.

On 15 April, Balbir Singh Jakhar, an advocate and AAP candidate in the West Delhi parliamentary constituency in the Lok Sabha polls approached the Delhi High Court seeking relief on behalf of the scrap businesses. The court imposed a temporary stay order on the sealing drive while scheduling the next hearing of the case to 26 April.

Significantly, the insecurity of livelihood among the workers of Mayapuri has provided a fertile ground for political parties this election season.

Jakhar sees the invisible hand of the Delhi Lieutenant Governor in the Mayapuri episode.

He said that at first, the DPCC imposed a cost of Rs 1 lakh on each scrap business in Mayapuri and the last date to pay the same was 16 April.

"But even before the last date of paying the cost was over, the DPCC launched the sealing operation. This is why we approached the Delhi High Court and the court has stayed the sealing drive till 26 April,” he said.

The DPCC has also imposed a fine of another Rs 50 lakhs each on the scrap dealers who have been served with a sealing notice.

“If we are to pay such an exorbitant amount we will have to sell everything we have and will be on the roads," says Dapneet Singh, owner of Galaxy Car Care, a car repairing unit.

He also added that his unit has 10 employees and he does not know how to pay their salaries after his unit was sealed.

Jakhar who is ready to take this battle to the Supreme Court of India, claimed that the exorbitant cost imposed on the scrap dealers was "in connivance with the L-G’s office".

“The DPCC imposed exorbitant cost on the scrap dealers as per instruction of the Lieutenant Governor’s office and the Delhi Environment Minister was not informed of it. We are going to raise this issue in the Supreme Court of India,” he said.

When contacted by Firstpost, the Delhi L-G's office declined to comment on the issue.

Many scrap dealers who have received sealing notices have been trying in vain to get their notices vacated in the DPCC office while political parties are engaged in a vocal slugfest over the issue.

Passing the buck on the state government, Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said, “The issue is very straight forward, the matter is between the NGT and the Delhi government. In 2015, the NGT instructed the Delhi government to relocate the scrap industry in Mayapuri. For four years, the Arvind Kejriwal government didn't do anything about it."

In reply to Puri's comment, Aam Admi party leader and Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said, "At least he has admitted that these industries were to be relocated. So, who has to give land for the relocation of these industries?”
The powers related to land allocation in the Union Territory of Delhi rest with the Centre.

But the war of words are generating least interest among the industry workers and scrap business owners in Mayapuri, as it extends no help to them.

"Rather than blaming each other why don’t they find out a way to solve the problem. We don't know how they can solve it but we know that only the government can do it,” says Gurvinder Singh, owner of the German Motor Works which was also sealed on Saturday.​

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Updated Date: Apr 19, 2019 23:17:59 IST