On January 10, the day Delhi Mayor Shelly Oberoi started a cleanliness drive, Ab Delhi Hoga Saaf, hundreds of sanitation workers gathered at the gate of the civic centre — headquarters of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) — demanding regularisation of their jobs and payment of arrears.
So desperate were they to get noticed that many among the workers took off their shirts despite severely cold weather.
“Ninety-nine per cent of MCD workers are in miserable condition. They have been working daily but the nigam (MCD) is not making them permanent. Though orders have been issued to regularise them, they are yet to be implemented,” said Naveen Vaid, the Deputy President of MCD Swachhata Karamchari Union to Patriot.
Ahead of the MCD election in 2022, the Kejriwal government promised to regularise safai karamchari (sanitation workers) and solve their other problems but the employees feel the promises have remained unfulfilled.
Many sanitation workers are working in place of their fathers following their death before retirement. Forty-year-old Anup is one among them. His father worked in Civil Lines.
“MCD doesn’t make us permanent even though I am working for the last 15 years. I was appointed after my father’s death prior to his retirement under Karunamaluk scheme. However, we didn’t receive any pension since my mother died before my father. Nor have I been made permanent in the position. So, there is uncertainty in my life.”
Besides not being regularised, workers like Anup have to struggle even for safety equipment.
“We don’t get safety equipment such as mask and gloves. We don’t even get a needle. We buy broom too from our own money. We have apprised the authorities of this but there has been no response.”
Anup said that employees would get confirmed on their fathers’ position in the past without having to wait for long but not now.
“I joined in 2009. I was told that I will get permanent by 2010. But I don’t know when will I get permanent.”
Anup, who lives on rent with wife and two children, was also part of the protest at the civic centre. He is facing financial problems due to which he is forced to pick other work too.
“To supplement my income, which isn’t enough since I have to pay children’s education fees and house rent, I do private work after duty. I have no complaints about the kind of work but they should regularise us,” added Anup, who said that the authorities had not yet fulfilled their promise of making 6,500 employees permanent.
Rahul Tanwar, 38, is another employee waiting for a letter from MCD even after two decades of being in the job. He has been working with MCD since 2003, having replaced his father.
He too is unable to survive on the salary he gets and has to work elsewhere to supplement the income.
“I get Rs 16,000 per month which is not enough in these times. I manage family expenses with the support of my father-in-law. We are unable to fulfil our children’s wishes. Only I know how we are surviving,” said Tanwar, who is currently working in central zone’s Nizamuddin area.
Tanwar unleashes on the Kejriwal government.
“Where are the 5,000 employees that Kejriwal claimed to have made permanent. My file went for approval on 11th December but there has been no progress even after a month. Normally it takes only two days for approval. They don’t want to do it, they are just misleading us.”
Tanwar lives with wife and three kids.
“We haven’t even received money for uniform for the last 3-4 years.”
Tanwar said that the workers are planning a strike on January 27 in all 12 zones if their demands aren’t met.
Thirty-six-year-old Naveen Vaid brought to light other problems like delay in salary and MCD’s apathy towards employees who suffer accidents.
“Workers don’t get salary on time. There is no facility for employees or their family if they suffer injury or die in a road accident. An employee of ward 142 met with an accident at Rajghat and suffered leg injury. The police arrested the cab driver but there was no help from the Nigam,” complained Naveen.
“Another employee died in 2021, but there was no help and compensation to his family provided by the department. We collected funds ourselves and managed his cremation in his village in Haryana. His family members in the village are struggling for basic amenities and survival. They are living under a tarpaulin sheet.”
Vaid said that salaries are often deposited only after a gap of 2-3 months.
“Even this month we got our salaries only two days ago. We went to meet the Mayor but she ignored us. We have written letters warning the authorities again and again. We want them to implement the order and fulfill their promise.”
Momo shop for survival
Naveen, who has been working for 18 years after his father died in 2005, has resorted to selling momos to supplement his income.
“I have a kiosk to sell momos. I begin there at 3-4 pm after work. How can a family survive on a salary of Rs 14,000-15,000. Everything, including children’s education, is costly. If we become permanent, we don’t need to work extra,” he said.
“They also don’t provide any medical facility, no safety kit, or and no compensation on death. We survive somehow but the department doesn’t support or listen to us,” said Naveen, whose father died due to sewer gas.
Committee in helpless situation
Virendra Singh Chudiyana, Deputy Chairman of Safai Karamchari Core Committee, said that only 150 employees have been made permanent even though orders were issued to regularise 6,000 daily wage workers and 2,060 workers appointed via CG (compassionate ground after their fathers’ death).
“The MCD Commissioner organised a core committee meeting in October and issued a circular to all 12 zones asking each of them to send two files for regularisation. But no zone is sending file now and the files that have already been sent have not moved.”
He said further, “When the Mayor visited west zone for a cleaning campaign, some employees had to ask her for uniform, gloves, masks and other garbage equipment. We saw hope and thought that this government is serious in fulfilling promises. But that hasn’t been the case.”
Chudiyana challenged MCD’s claim of regularising thousands of employees.
“Thousands are in queue and only 345 out of 9,000 employees have been regularised.”
Chudiyana’s case is enough to show the dark reality and loopholes.
“My father, a sanitary superintendent, died in 1990. But as I belong to the SC community (valmiki), they gave me a job of safai karamchari only in 2008, 18 years after my father’s death. I am not a regular even after spending 16 years in job and despite having cleared class 12,” Chudiyana added.
“The Safai Karamchari Aayog (National Commission for Safai Karamchari) gave the decision in my favour but the MCD Commissioner went to the High Court challenging the decision. It means that they have the money to go High Court (against employees) but they can’t regularise us.
Chudiyana complained that MCD wants to break their resolve using every mean.
“They want to force us to a level where we feel helpless but I will not give up.”
Patriot called MCD Commissioner Gyanesh Bharti and Mayor Shelly Oberoi regarding the allegations, but both did not respond. The questionnaires sent to them did not elicit any response.