Trifurcation of MCD: Dues, Debts and no sign of relief

Major budget deficit in MCD budget has caused irregular payment of wages to the employees and they are yet to receive their arrear which has been due for more than 4 years. Who’s responsible

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MCD teachers protest

Delhi is compartmentalised and ruled by seven elected governments, including the municipal ones – the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), New Delhi Municipal Council and the Delhi Cantonment Board.

The trifurcation of the MCD, the biggest metropolitan body, took place in the year 2012 which was initiated by the Sheila Dikshit-led Delhi government. The NDMC and SDMC contain 104 municipal wards each, while the smaller EDMC currently has 64 wards. This was aimed to provide citizens with better municipal services but given the current situation, this move has gone in vain and the sufferers are majorly the MCD employees themselves.

The problem of irregular payment of wages to the MCD employees has been a persistent one from the past four years and there’s no sign of relief yet.

As held by the Delhi High Court on May 10, 2016, the employee unions can file an affidavit if salaries are not paid to them till “7th of every month”. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out to be a fruitful solution. From filing affidavits to holding candle march and hunger strikes, MCD employees didn’t leave any stone unturned to fight against injustice.

“The last salary we received for this year was in February. We are beating around the bush. Filing affidavits, authorities releasing a month’s salary upon court’s order and then again back to square one,” said a union member of Municipal Corporation Teachers Association (MCTA).

According to rules, authorities cannot hold the salaries for more than three months. In order to save them from the consequences that follow, authorities release a month’s salary right before the three month deadline to calm the storm. It has been a chaotic situation ever since the trifurcation of MCD happened. From the very beginning, MCD employees have protested against it and still continue to do so.

Ramnivas Solanki, the General Secretary of MCTA shared with the Delhi Post about the countless number of affidavits they have sent to the MCD Mayors, Delhi Government and Lt. Governor.

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He explained, “All the revenue incurring sources have gone to the SDMC and the liabilities are being put up by the North and East MCD. There’s lack of funds and the grants given by the centre never reach us. Due to differences between the Delhi government and MCD, we are bearing the losses. If salaries are not paid on time, the entire teachers association will go on an indefinite strike as soon as schools reopen.”

With the trifurcation, all the expenses have increased three-fold. Earlier, employees could get transferred between all 12 MCD zones easily but post-trifurcation, due to lot of transfer requests, the process was put on hold and inter-zone transfers outside of the corporation are not permitted which is making promotions difficult as well. Other than this, arrears are due from 2014 and some employees are yet to receive their DA. It is quite evident the trifurcation fails to serve its original purpose and has caused more stress on the administration and has paved the way for more corruption.

For around 1.25 lakh government employees working in all three MCDs, their sources of income rely on taxes collected on water, houses, markets and vehicles (commercial only) which are paid by residents of the town and grants from the state government. The state government provides compensation and assignments to local bodies and Panchayati Raj institutions. In 2019-20, this amount is estimated to be Rs 3,939 crore (6.5 per cent of the expenditure or Rs 60, 000 crore).

MCD teachers protest

A finance department official mentioned in a news daily that EDMC needs Rs 135 crore every month for payment of salaries and pensions. But with the income hovering around half, the civic body is, according to the official, “heavily dependent on the Delhi Government to pay our employee”. On the other hand, Delhi chief Arvind Kejriwal claims, “In spite of having huge sources, its finances are in a mess because of corruption. I have seen the accounts of the civic body and they are telling signs of massive corruption.” The constant blame-game is taking the situation nowhere, in fact, it is making it worse.

“A recent plea filed by a NGO, the Social Jurist, through advocate Ashok Agarwal for the non-payment of salaries, stated that the residential doctors of Hindu Rao Hospital have also gone on a pen-down strike since May 16 in protest against non-payment of March and April salaries. Many such pleas have been filed in the past as well for the same issue.”

The Capital has witnessed two major strikes by safai karamcharies in the past three years bringing the entire city to a halt. The workers had not been paid their dues for months. The Supreme Court held it was “unfortunate and tragic” that the Centre was not prepared to “make any payment at all” to resolve the crisis arising out of the strike by sanitation workers of EDMC over the demand for regular payment of salaries. Many MCD employees are struggling to meet ends. They also alleged that non-disbursal of salaries resulted in some of their colleagues falling ill. When 46-year-old Khem Chand, a teacher at a North corporation school, died of a heart attack in 2017 teachers made a link with non-payment of salary.

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Budget allocation for education has been the highest throughout Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) government administration in Delhi but primary education is the worst affected.

While talking to Delhi Post, a MCD teacher alleged, “Delhi government’s step-motherly treatment towards MCD School is making the problem of fund deficit worse. The schools under Delhi administration have no issues regarding salaries.”

No employee can be expected to render their services diligently and efficiently without payment of their salaries. It is their lawful entitlement. The quality of work is immensely affected. The indifferences between the centre, state and municipal authorities were never as evident as they are since Aam Aadmi Party government came to power.

“When Delhi Post reached out to Delhi Government’s Education Minister, Manish Sisodia on this issue, they denied any links to non-payment of salaries and asked us to follow-up with the concerned MCD instead.”

The trifurcation is also to be blamed here as it has been a conflicting issue for many years. BJP’s main objective was to amend the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act if it were to win the 2017 civic body elections.

“We are working on a framework so that MCDs are not dependent on the Delhi government for funds. It could be in the manner Delhi Development Authority (DDA) comes under the Centre,” were the claims made by Manoj Tiwari. It has been two years and MCD employees are still looking for a ray of hope. Although, the condition of schools in Delhi has improved significantly but the growth has not been balanced subsequently.

There’s no clear answer to who’s responsible for this situation. Everyone seems to be pulling out of it. Unless, we address the deeper issues, the benefits of the trifurcation will never be met and the administration will become progressively worse and the victim would be its employees. The circle of dues will never come to an end.