Wednesday July 18, 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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Then It Was Emergency Now It Is Democracy

The Emergency happened 43 years ago and both, Mrs Gandhi and the Congress, lost power because of it in 1977

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Then It Was Emergency Now It Is Democracy
Then It Was Emergency Now It Is Democracy. Pixabay

An all-out war of words broke out last week between the BJP and the Congress on the 1975 Emergency. Observing June 26 as a ‘black day’, several BJP leaders targeted the Congress at events held across the country to highlight the Emergency’s excesses. Leading the charge with a sharp attack on the Congress was Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Addressing BJP workers in Mumbai last Tuesday, the prime minster said the country still refers to June 26 as a ‘dark period during which every institution was subverted and an atmosphere of fear was created’.

Without naming the Nehru-Gandhi family, Modi said the Constitution was misused at the behest of one family. He further went on to say that the mentality of the family had not changed even now after 43 years of the Emergency. ‘Whenever the family feared loss of power, it keeps shouting that the country is in crisis,’ the prime minister added. Expectedly, the Congress hit back with equally sharp criticism of the Modi government, equating Modi to Aurangzeb. It alleged that the prime minister was even crueller than the Mughal emperor as Modi has “enslaved democracy” in the country for the past 49 months with an “undeclared emergency”.

The 21-month period from 1975 to 1977, when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi had declared Emergency, was indeed a dark chapter in India’s democratic history. This was the third national Emergency – the first one was in 1962 when China invaded India and the second was in 1971 during the war with Pakistan – and the only one to be declared citing the “internal disturbances”.  During the 1975 Emergency, opposition leaders were arrested, civil rights curbed, elections postponed, anti-government protests crushed and press censored. It shook India to its core as the freedom to liberty, dissent and express ceased to exist. All this is well-known and in public domain. Therefore, what was so special about the 43rd anniversary of Emergency that the BJP observed as ‘black day’?

Bringing back memories of the Emergency days was clearly aimed at striking at the Congress’s weak spot. It was also meant to neutralise Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s frequent ‘murder of democracy’ gibes directed at the Modi government. This was not entirely unexpected in a pre-election year; neither was the Congress’s equally sharp response by likening Modi to Aurangzeb. As 2019 general elections approach, not only the political exchange between the two parties will gather momentum, but over the next 10 months, election-driven rhetoric, name-calling, inane allegations and historical debates will increase. Reminding Congress of the Emergency is just the beginning.

Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress- wikimedia commons

While terming the Emergency as an ‘aberration’, the Congress has never expressed any remorse about the dark chapter in its history or condemned it. Claiming that during Emergency, Mrs Gandhi targeted the rich, black marketers, hoarders and zamindars is no justification for curbing civil liberties and press freedom and neutralising the opposition. The hesitation to admit Emergency as a major mistake has denied the Congress an opportunity to reassert its commitment to democratic values, though it was the primary builder of democracy in India after independence.

The Emergency happened 43 years ago and both, Mrs Gandhi and the Congress, lost power because of it in 1977. Since then, the Congress has ruled at the Centre several times without resorting to emergency measures. On the contrary, it has shown its commitment to democratic order and liberal values far better than the current BJP-led government. The Emergency of 1975 and the violations of civil liberties and press freedom were all real. But its parallels can be drawn with the contemporary situation, which is marked by erosion of institutional independence and integrity, rising intolerance and increasing mob violence which stems from the ideological support of the ruling party.

The right-wing assaults on constitutional institution and individuals’ democratic rights are for real, though there is no Emergency in force in India today. While conventional opposition leaders and parties have the liberty to become more than conventional Opposition and there is also the rising wave of resistance to right-wing assaults on individual rights and institutions, it is also true that there are whiffs of Emergency sentiments in the air and the strains of the Emergency doctrine and pulsations of fear are quite obvious. The Congress is not entirely off the mark when it accuses the Modi government of ‘undeclared emergency’ as the freedom of the media, people’s freedom of expression and their right to live without fear have come under new kinds of threats.

There is no overt press censorship but the government has tried to muzzle and manipulate the media through various means. A section of the media has either caved in to the fear of administrative power or fallen for the lure of money-power. Apart from the media, there have been sustained attempts to weaken and misuse other constitutional and non-constitutional institutions, including the judiciary. Interestingly, all this is happening when the BJP is in power and questioning the Congress’s commitment to the principles and practice of democracy, while the BJP has diluted its own commitment to the philosophy of parliamentary democracy, liberal values and press freedom.

This is quite surprising because while the taint of Emergency continues to haunt the Congress, the BJP, despite its proud status of a party whose leaders were at the forefront of the struggle against the Emergency 43 years ago, is not deterred to misuse the levers of power against its political opponents, ‘difficult’ sections of the media, and independent or ‘inconvenient’ voices that question the government on various issues. With scant regard for critical debate and plurality of views under the current ruling dispensation, what we are seeing now is some kind of a role reversal. Mrs Gandhi subverted institutions to retain power. The BJP is trying to do the same by weakening the same institutions.

Also read: India sends Emergency Fuel Supplies to Sri Lanka

The Emergency should serve as a warning to political parties: threats to democracy and people’s constitutional rights – either directly or indirectly – create resentment and negative public opinion against government. The Emergency created a unity among opposition parties that never existed before and became the cause of Mrs Gandhi’s defeat. It is too early to say whether the Modi government’s attempts to misuse democratic institutions for his party’s narrow interests and the right wing attacks on institutions and rights of citizens will help create similar kind of opposition unity, which will determine the outcome of 2019 elections. (IANS)