Vexed issue of staff salary blights Diwali

BySashikala VP

Nov 11, 2020 , ,

If Delhi’s three MCDs get their act together, no employee will suffer due to delayed payment of salary. Bureaucratic indifference and political games seem to be creating an artificial scarcity

North MCD has faced the most flak out of the three Municipal Corporations in Delhi – the others being South and East – in the past two months. Its employees, including doctors, nurses and paramedical staff of MCD-run hospitals, were vocal, went on strike, refusing to work till their wages were paid. On 6 November they received the two months’ arrears which they demanded, and the strike including those by Safai Karamcharis was called off.

On 10 November the rest of the employees, like the clerical staff, ministerial staff, engineers, teachers called off their strike once they got the assurance they would receive one month’s salary (and one month’s pension) in a few days before Diwali which falls on the 14th of November. They were also given the assurance that after the 14th they would receive another month’s salary and a bonus; pension, and get all dues cleared by 30 November 30. Otherwise the union of employees would recommence their strike .

Since April this year, essentially since the pandemic broke out in the Capital and the country enforcing a lockdown from 23 March, the municipalities have not been paying their staff regularly – with pay being deferred for as long as four months for some. In fact, employees say the problem has been systemic for a couple of years, but this time around the duration of non-payment was too long for them to sit and wait silently.

UNITED FRONT: Staff members of MCDs congregate to protest the non-payment of their salaries. The strike, which had almost a lakh in participation was called on November 10 PHOTO: DEEPAK SHARMA/ MCD EMPLOYEES UNION

The most recent audit report for 2017-18 of the North MCD which was given before the Standing Committee in October of this year, pointed out that it noticed a delay in pay, which in the case of Group ‘A’ & ‘B’ “was ranging from 04 days to 61 days and in case of Group ‘C’ & ‘D’ employees the delay was ranging from 01 day to 40 days.” It went on to say that “efforts being made by the department to overcome such a crisis were not intimated to audit.”

When Patriot attended a couple of meetings held with the nurses and paramedical staff of the aggrieved hospitals, Mayor of North MCD Jai Prakash tried to reason with them, saying he was doing everything possible but that they were short on revenue. After the first meeting in mid-week of October and a month’s pay given, the staff were back on 2nd November, demanding they be paid or would continue their agitation which had then become a full-blown strike.

The Mayor during the second meeting spoke to the staff about the shortfall in money, saying there were 55,000 staff members plus 22,000 pensioners who must all get their salaries together. He went on to share that there was a backlog of Rs 950 crore, with about Rs 880 crore having been raised. With the employees demanding two months pay together for the months of August and September (to be paid in November before Diwali) it would mean arranging about Rs 350-400 crore for everyone, he said.

North Delhi Municipal Corporation, which consists of 104 wards in six zones, namely Karol Bagh, City & Sadar Paharganj, Civil Lines, Keshav Puram, Rohini and Narela makes its revenue through external and internal sources. These are by way of tax share from Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), grants and loans by Delhi Government and internally by way of taxes, fees & fines.

Mayors have blamed the Delhi government for their hardship: the inability to pay their staff, a claim the Delhi government rubbishes even in court. In previous years, according to the audit report, out of total grants of Rs.6,892.42 crore to be received from GNCTD during 2012-13 to 2017-18, Rs.5398.90 crore (78.33%) was received, making a grant of Rs.1,493.52 crore still to be received.

Also their own revenue generation has not materialised, and not just due to Covid-19, as they have stated in the past few months, pointing to the shortfall in collection of taxes due to lockdown. While North Delhi Municipal Corporation was required to generate resources by collecting things like taxes, rent, fees, and parking charges amongst others, it was unable to meet its target even in 2017-18, according to the audit report. While the target was set for Rs 5,991.14 crore, the actual realisation was Rs 2,359.56 crore with Rs 3,631.58 crore less in realisation. The same year actual fund available was Rs 3,490.74 crore while actual fund utilised was Rs 3,588.43 crore, making the expenditure exceed revenue by 2.8%.

It also pointed out that during audit, the concerned departments either furnished incomplete replies or did not furnish replies, records, data and documents in respect of old Inspection Reports and audit memos. “Irregularities of serious nature and involving huge financial implications were noticed during the audit of the accounts of assessment & collection department”, Engineering, Building, and Health & Medical amongst others, it noted.

The North DMC, received assistance from the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) in 2015-16 as education grant, maintenance of capital assets and Municipal reforms fund which were Rs 4,75.96 crore, then in 2016-17 it was Rs 550.56 crore which then became Rs 763.71 crore in 2017-18.

EXPENSE CHART: North MCDs biggest chunk of expenditure was on Sanitation followed by education (numbers in crores) SCREENSHOT: AUDIT REPORT

As for internal revenue, in 2017-18 from taxes and rates the North MCD made Rs 1,703.70 crores. From rent, fees and fines it made Rs 431.87 crore, and Rs 223.49 crore from Other Misc. Income (fee from mobile phone towers, Development/Deficiency Charges, Road Restoration Charges, Escrow Acco Account and other miscellaneous . Income bringing the total to Rs 2,359.56.

From its expenditure, it spent the most on sanitation at Rs 921.99 crore followed by education at Rs 745.71 crore, then General Administration at Rs 718.63.

Out of total non-plan expenditure of Rs 3,588.43 crore, an amount of Rs. 324.32 crore (9.04% of total expenditure) was incurred on different items and rest of the expenditure Rs 3,264.11 crore (90.96% of total expenditure) was incurred on salary and establishment which is 90.96% of the expenditure.

While AP Khan, convenor of the Confederation of MCD Employees Union — an umbrella body of civic workers in the three municipalities – blamed both parties at the Centre (BJP) and the state (AAP) for the people’s current state, he did think the matter should have been looked after by the MCDs themselves. “We feel that both the parties are playing games for political gains, to get mileage. The biggest responsibility is MCDs’ and the mayor’s and the commissioners is to arrange all the resources. They know how much is their revenue and how much is their expenditure. So ultimately, it’s their duty to see from where they can get the funds together.”

A day before the strike was called off he said about a lakh employees from the three municipalities were joining together in their demand. North corporation was the most affected out of the three, followed by East and lastly South.

The staff are all clinging to the hope of payments while the North MCD does not seem to have any problems which it cannot solve if it has the will.

 

(Cover Image: ON DUTY: NDMC Mayor Jay Prakash with striking doctors of Hindu Rao Hospital    //PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES)

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