Bengaluru: Kejriwal offers Rs.551 crore loan for salaries; civic workers continue strike

Bengaluru/New Delhi, Feb 3 (IANS) Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday announced a Rs.551-crore loan to pay out pending salaries of striking workers of two civic bodies of Delhi and sought a CBI inquiry into financial irregularities in all the three municipal corporations of the national capital.

The workers, however, said the announcement of a loan was not a permanent solution to their crisis and they would continue with their strike, now eight days old.

“We are giving Rs.551 crore to the North and East municipal corporations as loan for payment of salaries of workers,” Kejriwal said in Bengaluru, where he is undergoing treatment for a throat problem at a naturopathy centre.

Employees of Delhi’s three civic bodies – North Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and East Delhi Municipal Corporation – have been protesting the non-payment of their past few months’ salaries and wages.

They have directed their ire at both the Delhi and central governments for the past eight days, and have gone on strike, affecting the city’s schools, hospitals and sanitation.

The striking employees said the funds being offered by the Delhi government as a loan to two of the three civic bodies are not a permanent solution to the financial crisis facing them.

“Our strike will continue. The amount announced by the Delhi government is like a drop in the ocean. We had demanded Lt.Governor Najeeb Jung to arrange Rs.5,000 crore either from Delhi or the central governments,” Mazdoor Vikas Sanyukta Morcha president Sanjay Gehlot told IANS.

The Congress slammed the Aam Aadmi Party’s city government, saying Kejriwal was trying to take undue credit.

Of the Rs.551 crore on offer, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation will receive Rs.314 crore whereas the East Delhi Municipal Corporation will get Rs.237 crore.

The North Delhi Municipal Corporation will also be paid Rs.142 crore against the stamp duty bill, Kejriwal said.

“It is with great difficulty that we have been able to find Rs.550 crore for loan. The Delhi government is facing Rs.3,000 crore shortfall in value added tax collection,” Kejriwal said soon after making the loan offer.

“We had to postpone some of our present commitments to the next year to manage this money,” he tweeted.

Kejriwal also demanded a CBI inquiry into “massive scams” in three municipal corporations of Delhi, ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party. He said his government did not owe any money to the civic bodies, as claimed by them.

The chief minister said the AAP government has allocated extra funds to the three civic bodies in the current fiscal compared to the previous year.

“The BJP, which ruled the MCD for 10 years, is responsible for its poor financial situation. Funds given to civic bodies have been diverted. Where has the money given to the MCD gone?” he asked.

“It is a classic case of financial mismanagement and corruption. A Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry should be ordered to probe the financial irregularities in the municipal corporations,” Kejriwal demanded.

Kejriwal said a joint front of 19 unions of the municipal employees has called for dissolving the three civic bodies and bringing them under the Delhi government.

He said doctors of Delhi’s municipal hospitals have requested the Delhi government to take over these hospitals to improve their functioning.

“Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia will see the legal viability of the suggestions for bringing the MCD-run hospitals under the Delhi government,” Kejriwal added.

On Wednesday, thousands of civic workers blocked major roads, including east Delhi’s arterial Vikas Marg, leading to traffic jams and inconvenience to commuters.

The striking sanitation workers staged demonstrations even on the National Highways skirting Delhi.

Hospitals and schools run by the civic bodies were also affected as doctors, other hospital staff, teachers and school employees joined the protest.

Hitting out at AAP government, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a statement said, “Earlier in June 2015 during MCD employees’ strike, Kejriwal government played dirty politics and tried to provoke them. Today again, the CM has announced loan to the corporations to take advantage of the sensitive issue.”

Slamming the AAP government, the Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar said that Kejriwal should tell why he gave only Rs.2,457.84 crore out of a total budget of Rs.41,129 crore to the MCDs, that was just 5.9 percent.

“The previous Congress governments had given Rs.3,128.16 crore to the corporations that is 9.36 percent of the total budget of Rs.33,436 crore in 2012-13,” Kumar said in a statement.

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