In addition to having their nostrils assailed by the notoriously polluted air, Delhi's citizens are now getting accustomed to the stench of the burgeoning piles of filth on the streets. Mounds of garbage have accumulated across east and north Delhi as a strike by sanitation workers entered its fifth day on Sunday. To avoid the logjam between the Bharatiya Janata Party-dominated municipal bodies and its own state government, the Aam Aadmi Party decided to circumvent the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and took to the streets with its own volunteer force to clean things up.
The municipal workers have been on strike since January 27 to demand that their salaries be paid regularly, that they receive arrears accumulated over the years and that their jobs be regularised. They also want health benefits and a change in the structure of the municipal corporation. The strikers found support from doctors, engineers, nurses and other municipal workers who decided to join the protest from Saturday in order to demand “uninterrupted salaries round the year”.
The AAP government claims that the strikers have been “instigated” to throw garbage outside the homes of ministers and party workers.
On Sunday, AAP chose to sidestep the strikers and called upon the Public Works Department to lead the way, even as it deployed its own volunteer force to clean the garbage in some localities.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday said on Twitter that he supports the strike by sanitation workers and declared that they should be paid their full salaries. But workers allege that it is the Delhi government that is not releasing the funds that will allow them to be paid.
Responding to the growing citizen anger about the garbage outside their homes, on the main roads and even on highways, Public Works Department Minister Satyendra Jain formed committees of volunteers in every affected district and instructed his department to clear out the garbage as a priority.
On Sunday, AAP MLAs and many cabinet ministers also jumped in the cleanliness drive waving their brooms ‒ AAP's official symbol.
While the cleanliness drive was going on in full swing in the national capital, questions remained about the future of sanitation workers, who claim that their dues have piled up over the years. The Delhi government blames the BJP-led central government for not distributing enough funds.
This is also not the first time that Delhi has seen such a strike from the sanitation workers. In October, workers employed by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation struck work, which lasted for three days. Protesting unions asked the Delhi government to release grants earmarked for the corporation. This week's strike demonstrates how little has changed.
Here are a few pictures of today's drive, shared on the social media.
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