Friday September 21, 2018
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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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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)