Salary row: MCD staff yet to get their dues, employees’ woes continues
North MCD pensioners and employees think it will take time, before they get paid on time
For months now, the employees and pensioners of North Municipal Corporation of Delhi have spoken out against its employer’s inability to pay their dues. At one point the salaries were deferred by up to five months.
Manmohan Bharadwaj, one of North MCDs approximately 23,000 retired employees tell us there was a time during the pandemic he applied for a loan but it was rejected. The Punjab National Bank cited his pension being delayed for months at a time, putting his ability to pay back into question.
Bharadwaj spent his entire working life with the North MCD, starting from 1976 till he retired in August of 2016, as chief sanitation inspector. “In the 40 years that I had worked, I was even offered a job in the Central department but didn’t switch, thinking this corporation is also good. Earlier we had no trouble, and then when the corporation was divided into three parts in 2012, the difficulty began”.
This is not an unusual thought process, when one sits with the disgruntled employees or pensioners, the common discussion point is one: that the authorities are playing politics; and second, that the division caused a problem of funds. There are five major hospitals under the North MCD while the South has two such hospitals – Purnima Sethi Multispecialty Hospital at Kalkaji and Tilak Nagar hospital – and East MCDs has one, Swami Dayanand hospital.
In the case with schools too, NDMC has a bigger burden with about 722 schools under it, followed by SDMC with 593, and lastly EDMC with 371 schools. While South MCD may have a lower burden of expenses, it earns the most revenue from property tax from the among the three corporations.
Senior Advocate Sandeep Sethi who was appearing for the Delhi Government in the High Court, in the case against non-payment of salary to employees and pensioners of the municipal corporations, pointed out that the SDMC is the most profitable corporation. Adding that it gets the largest chunk of revenue.
He also cited reasons as to why the Delhi government was not to blame for the predicament of the employees, saying it had been under severe pressure financially. Sethi also said the central government was not giving any grants to Delhi, unlike the ones other states had received.
Cases reached the High Court last year, against the non-payment, several were then clubbed together into one. This was even as employees and pensioners burdened under the pressure of no pay and no relief, held several meetings with the administration and protests demanding their income.
North MCD which has a total of 60,000 employees saw its administrative staff, doctors, nurses and paramedical staff, cleaning staff (safai karamcharis), go on strike, refusing to work till their wages were paid. In January of this year the last of the protests, which was organised by the Confederation of MCD Employees Unions took place.
Its convenor, AP Khan, tells us this “trend of late payment and non-payment of our dues” will only be solved if the three corporations are unified. His other suggestions are unified finances, or a regular special financial package from the State and Central government.
Gajender Singh, a current employee with the Central Establishment Department does not mention any of these solutions. He thinks the backlog will not end until the elections for the three mayoral posts in 2022, pointing to the political slugfest between BJP-run MCDs and the AAP-run Delhi government.
Singh says it’s all about one-upmanship — one trying to make the other look bad. “A lot of funds were cut by the Delhi government in 2020, which they blamed on the crash crunch faced due to Covid, and also that the Centre did not provide them money. The MCD blames it on the Delhi government, but if the Centre wanted, they could have provided for this (our salaries)”, says Singh, who has been with the Corporation for 18 years.
He calls himself one of the lucky few, who didn’t have as hard a time as many others. With a government accommodation, he didn’t have to worry about things like rent. “There were many who were facing grave hardships due to salaries coming late. We were even going to buy a home, but when Covid happened we could not go through with the purchase. We were lucky, else we would have had monthly instalments to pay off. I dug into my savings for all the other expenses, but many did not have this”.
For pensioners, it was a bad time made worse due to medical emergencies which many were unable to pay for themselves. Bharadwaj, who also happens to be one of the petitioners in the case in the High Court says, many he knew were left without a back-up.
Pensioners received their pension of three months on April 3rd, 5th and 6th. There are still salaries and pension remaining for the months of February and March which the bench will be checking up on when it meets again on April 27.
In one of the meetings, we attended last year where nursing employees of the NDMC hospitals met mayor Jai Prakash, they spoke of how colleagues were languishing without funds in hospitals. The employees demanded cashless payments for medical treatment, which presently works in a cash first, and then reimbursement set up. Many told us this takes at least a couple of years to come through.
Other than this, employees also demand their bonus dues, pay commission arrears and children’s education allowance, as pointed out by Deepak Sharma, a primary school teacher in North MCDs Gujranwala town. Sharma who is also an executive member of the employee’s confederation says he’s yet to receive children’s education allowance in the last five years.
On April 5 when the bench met to hear the case, it rejected an application by the North MCD asking for time until April 30 to clear all dues. The bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rekha Palli of the Delhi High Court also lashed out at the Delhi government, calling out its use of “full page ads every day in newspapers with politicians”, calling it “propaganda” and asking if this wasn’t criminal when salaries were pending.
(Cover: In January of this year the last of the protests took place against the non-payment of salaries and pension / Photos: AP Khan)