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Garbage Politics Leads to Siege Within Delhi

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By Sidharth Mishra

The siege of Delhi by the farmers sitting on the periphery is not the only blockade which the national Capital is facing. There is a siege within Delhi too, a fallout of the garbage politics being engaged into by rival political parties – the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The civic employees belonging to the three corporations -- North, South and East, have gone without salaries and former employees without pension for months together, forcing them to hang their brooms. The result of this has been filth strewn all over the national Capital, threatening spread of disease thanks to poor hygienic conditions.

The non-payment of salaries is largely on the account of the failure of the Delhi Government to release adequate funds for the same. The government claims that it owed the corporations around Rs 1,200 crore as per revised estimates and of this, Rs 862 crore had been released until December. The Delhi government told the High Court last week that a sanction order of Rs 337 crore to the MCDs was passed in January for January-March 2021 and thus there was nothing pending.

This fact, however, is contested by the civic officials claiming that under the 3rd Financial Commission, that is between 2012 and 2016, Delhi government had to pay South MCD Rs 428 crores; it owed North Rs 539 crore; while East had no due; similarly, under 5th Finance Commission recommendations between 2016 and 2021, it owes South Rs 1,901 crore; East Rs 1,624; and North Rs 1,087 crore. Thus, the financial crisis and non-payment of salaries.

The situation has turned more acute this year on account of the Covid lockdown. Pandemic has led to a dip in revenue of both Delhi Government and the corporations. The civic bodies are badly hit as their main sources of revenue -- outdoor advertising, toll tax, health trade licenses and other such licenses, have been affected by about 50 percent.

As mentioned earlier, the matter is now before the High Court for adjudication. However, it should also be noted that there is nothing new about it as it has become an annual feature with the MCD employees having approached the court over non-payment of salaries in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

With no serious or meaningful engagement between the BJP-ruled civic bodies and the AAP-ruled Delhi Government, the matter has increasingly got reduced to what the High Court aptly said, ‘political slugfest’.  The court may push the Delhi Government whenever approached but the matters of civic services definitely cannot be left just to judicial interventions. The provisions of governance of Delhi stipulates that the two tiers put their heads together in giving services to citizens which s/he would need from their birth to death.

This is unlikely to happen given the genre of confrontational politics practiced by both the AAP and the BJP. As financial mismanagement is integral to the governance style of AAP, it often takes an aggressive stand wherever it is unable to pay the salary bill. The non-payment of salaries in Delhi Government-funded Delhi University colleges is a case in point. 

The BJP, on the other hand, in the absence of a mature and sincere leadership, ever since Manoj Tiwari took over as party president in the national Capital and now followed by a non-entity Adesh Gupta, has failed to articulate its case well and also unable to effectively counter the charges levelled by the AAP government. The complex funding structure of the civic bodies needs diligent application of mind, which none is willing to apply.

So, while the allegations and counter-allegations galore, citizens wait with a bated breath for the garbage to get cleared. 

(First Published In The Morning Standard) 


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