Under three Delhi Municipal corporations of North, South, and East Division, out of the total 94 COVID-19 deaths of the employees, 49—more than half were sanitation workers.
The three above-mentioned MCDs together employ around 50,000 sanitation workers on either a permanent or temporary basis, all of whom were involved in sanitation work which intensified when COVID19 hit the city. Even when the country was going through stringent nationwide lockdown with industries closed and many in the upper-middle classes shifting to work from home, Sanitation workers were still involved in collecting garbage and sanitation exercises around Delhi.
No Safety Equipments Then, No Compensation Now?
According to a report by The Indian Express, 16 out of 29, 25 out of 49, and 8 out of 16 employee deaths in South, North, and East MCDs respectively were of workers engaged in sanitation activities. Rajendra Mewati, Delhi Nagar Nigam Safai Mazdoor Sangh’s in charge, said that masks were given to the supervisors but those never made their way to the sanitation workers.
Mewati further added that “There should be proper arrangements for these things. Also, every sanitation worker should be given Rs 1 crore compensation in a week and permanent jobs for their dependents. What happens mostly is that one or two are given benefits, Photo sessions are held with their family members, while files of other people are kept in process, leading to inordinate delay,”.
Other than Sanitation workers, 13 health workers, 7 employees from the education department, some of which were involved in ration distribution, four teachers, 2 principals, and one school attendant also succumbed to COVID-19.
The Mayor of East Delhi, Nirmal Jain, informed that seven Sanitation workers have been given compensation and files of others who died in the pandemic are being processed. He further ensured that they are also following up with the Delhi government about its announcement of compensation of 1 crore to those who died on COVID duty.
Meanwhile, Jai Prakash, the Mayor of North MCD said that a relief fund of around 5-10 lakhs is being arranged and added that a dependent from the family of the deceased will be given a permanent job.
Delhi Government Has been Reprimanded by the Delhi HC
Towards the end of January 2021, while hearing several petitions related to non-payment of salaries of employees and pensioners under the three MCDs— North, South, and East, the Delhi High Court had reprimanded the Delhi government.
The bench hearing the petitions had addressed the Aam Aadmi Party-led Delhi government and the Municipal Corporation authorities and said that:
“We are ashamed of you and your leaders…the way you are behaving” and added that government “do not care about the poor employees and retired pensioners at all”, The Hindu reported.
The court had also raised questions about the money spent by the AAP government on advertisements during the pandemic when at the same time they were not paying the salaries of their employees and warned in of an inquiry and audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.