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Sanitation workers in Delhi call off the strike after 12 days

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New Delhi: Sanitation workers in east and north Delhi called off their strike on Friday after the Delhi government released their salary arrears, even as political parties indulged in a blame game for the piles of waste lying on the streets that has caused concerns about a possible outbreak of diseases.

The strike ended on the day the Delhi High Court directed the city government to immediately release funds to the East Delhi Municipal Corporation for payment of salaries to its employees.

Earlier in the day, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi met sanitation workers on strike for the past 12 days to express his solidarity with them.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Sanjay Singh and Dilip Pandey held a press conference in the afternoon and said that the Arvind Kejriwal government had released the funds for payment of pending salaries of sanitary workers.

“We had released Rs.513 crore instead of Rs.493 crore to pay the salaries of North and East Municipal Corporation employees before the high court’s order came,” said AAP leader Dilip Pandey.

The announcement to pay salary arrears to sanitation staff had been made by Kejriwal at a rally in Delhi on May 8.

Hours after the release of funds was announced, the Akhil Bhartiya Safai Mazdoor Sangh, to which sanitation workers are affiliated, said that the strike was called off.

“We got to know that the Delhi government has released Rs.513 crore towards our salaries. So, we have decided to call off the strike. Sanitation workers will be back on work from tomorrow (Saturday),” Sangh president Krishnapal Parcha told IANS.

“Delhi will be cleaned in just three days after we resume work,” he added.

Parcha said over 10,000 sanitation workers were on strike for the last 12 days over the issue of non-payment of their salaries.

A civic body official confirmed that the strike was called off.

“The sanitation workers have called of their strike and decided to resume work from tomorrow. The areas of the national capital, where garbage was lying on the roads, will be cleaned in a day or two,” the official told IANS.

The sanitation workers from east and north municipal corporations had complained that they had not been given salaries for the last two months.

The strike had badly impacted the system of garbage collection in Delhi with piles of household waste spilling on roads.

At places, the strewn garbage stretched to several metres with even vehicles getting stuck. Citizens expressed concern at the possibility of breakout of diseases.

There were also reports of workers deliberately spilling garbage on the roads to register their protest in Mayur Vihar and Patparganj areas.

“For the past 10 days, drains have been overflowing and garbage has spilled on the road. We are not eating outside and staying mostly indoors to save ourselves from any possible disease,” said Sanjay Sharma, a resident of east Delhi.

The national capital, on an average produces 8,630 tonnes per day of municipal solid waste, according to Delhi’s Department of Environment.

In its decision, the Delhi High Court asked the Delhi government to release Rs.493 crore for the pending payment of MCD employees.

Rahul Gandhi met the agitating sanitation workers at the East Delhi Municipal Corporation headquarters in Patparganj and accused the central and Delhi governments of “not showing concern” for their welfare.

AAP leaders also expressed concern at “ghost employees” in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and sought an inquiry.

“There are as many as 22,000 ghost employees in the MCD. They do not exist but their salary is drawn. I have no hesitation in saying that the MCD is the most corrupt institution in the world,” Pandey alleged.

Another AAP leader Sanjay Singh accused the BJP of “converting Delhi into a garbage dump”.

“Don’t punish people of Delhi for voting in our favour,” he said.

BJP leader R.P. Singh said that the central government cannot be blamed for delay in payment of salary arrears of sanitation workers and accused the AAP of not governing Delhi properly. (IANS)

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AAP’S Media Spend Is Four Times That Of Previous Government: RTI Reply

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP's one year in power in 2016

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Picture of Arvind Kejriwal addressing a rally. Wikimedia Commons
  • The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore
  • The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government
  • A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016

The AAP government has spent an average of Rs 70.5 crore annually in the past three years on advertisements — four times more than the previous government’s expenditure on print, electronic and outdoor advertising, according to an RTI reply.

In the first year after assuming office in February 2015, the current government spent Rs 59.9 crore on advertisements, Rs 66.3 crore the next year and Rs 85.3 crore up to December 31, 2017, the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) said in reply to an RTI application by IANS.

The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore. The Congress’ average was Rs 17.4 crore in the last five years of its rule (2008-2013).

Also Read: AAP welcomes BJP’s stand on inter-faith marriages

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers.

For instance, when the AAP government completed its first and second anniversary in 2016 and 2017, leading newspapers in the capital carried full-page advertisements, highlighting the achievements of the government.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons
The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons

In the run-up to celebrating its three years in office, the government in the first two weeks of February carried advertisements flashing pictures of the Chief Minister or other ministers. The highlights included the inauguration of community toilets, excellence awards distribution for students, a government meeting on “smart gaon”, and invitation of applications for scholarship schemes.

The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government.

Also Read: Blow for Kejriwal: EC recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

But the average advertisement rate charged by a leading English newspaper, comparing the Congress government and AAP government periods, has increased by about 17 percent, according to DAVP.

For the same period, the average rate charged by another leading English newspaper has increased by about 35 percent.

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016.

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons
According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements.

Last year, the government came under an opposition attack after Lt. Governor Anil Baijal asked the AAP to cough up Rs 97 crore spent on advertisements, allegedly to promote the party instead of the government. The LG order was based on a report by the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA).

Also Read: 5 Years of AAP: How Society Has Been Backstabbed by ChandaChor Kejriwal

The regulatory authority asked the Delhi government to assess the expenditure in issuing “those advertisements/advertorials in which the name of the Aam Aadmi Party is mentioned” and other factors.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there.

Delhi government spokesperson Nagendar Sharma said he has “no comments” to offer on the increase in expenditure.

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons
The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons

Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken said: “They (AAP) are using the power of advertisements to put pressure on TV (channels) and newspapers. They are doing it ruthlessly”.

BJP MLA and Delhi Assembly Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta termed the government’s spending on advertisements as “irrational”. “Misuse of public money in this way is completely unjustified and unethical,” Gupta told IANS. (IANS)