MCD trifurcation at core of sanitation strike

January 23, 2017 12:41 am | Updated 12:41 am IST - New Delhi:

East Delhi generates 2,000-2,200 metric tonnes of solid waste per day and this was the fifth time in the last two years that it was strewn over city streets. Safai-karamcharis first went on strike in March 2015. Another strike in January 2016 also saw the United Front of MCD employees join in. The reason: delay in salaries. But that’s not where it ends – it can be traced back to the trifurcation of the MCD.

Trifurcation was finalised in December 2011 and East MCD was constituted in May 2012. East MCD, with its headquarters in Patparganj Industrial area, has two administrative zones and 64 wards. The settlement types and the waste generated by them varies widely across wards. The day-to-day activities for solid waste management (SWM) are coordinated from the zonal offices and ward-wise staff is responsible for sweeping of roads, desilting of nallas up to 4 feet and garbage removal [requires removing, storing (in dustbin and dhalao ), transporting via refuse-removal trucks to Ghazipur landfill].

Oddly, the zonal administration remains unchanged post-trifurcation. Only the very senior officials like Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners have increased but the number of junior staff from headquarters got divided into three. Thus, it was a highly centralised division as no rationalisation of staff requirements was done at the zonal or ward level. Since SWM is coordinated at the zonal level, an Administrative Officer exclaimed that ‘SWM process remained unchanged at ground level. Trifurcation’s effect was more on the administrative level - more additional commissioners, mayors.’

Tripling of costs

Administrative requirements have tripled at the headquarters. Associated with this tripling is the tripling of costs which is impacting the functioning of HQs as well as zones and wards. Thus, a deeper financial conundrum surfaced post-trifurcation.

The recommendations of the Fourth DFC (2011-16) were tabled in the Delhi Legislative Assembly only in December 2015. If the DFC’s recommendations were implemented starting 2013, when it submitted its report, East MCD would have got ₹ 3,000 crore for financial years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16. Funds continue to be given according to Third DFCs recommendations (2006-2011) - constituted in 2004 with mandate for allocation to the unified corporation.

So East MCD gets 19.14% of the share due to local bodies. This highly skewed and delayed process aggravated the financial crisis when it was actually supposed to ease it.

Shortfall in funds

This 19.14% share is not enough to make up for the shortfall in internal revenue generation - a major challenge for East MCD. An Administrative Officer remarked, “East MCD has many ‘dead zones’, because only 10% of the settlements in East MCD’s jurisdiction are approved or planned, i.e. 90% of the settlements do not generate any income or are ‘dead zones’ (property tax – highest source of internal revenue – is only charged to approved settlements)”.

Also the property tax rates, determined by a Municipal Valuation Committee (MVC), haven’t been revised since more than a decade. The third MVC which submitted its report in 2012 noted that higher taxation slabs can be applied to 42 DDA colonies in East because of improvement in infrastructure post the 2010 Commonwealth games. But this suggestion was dropped by the then unified MCD, thus artificially keeping the property rates down in the area and preventing full exploitation of the taxbase.

‘Problem was forseen’

Unless the property tax rates are revised upward or more areas are brought under its ambit or other sources like parking fees are exploited, East MCD will need continuous external support.

The East MCD’s current financial turmoil was supposedly foreseen by the Finance Department prior to trifurcation.

An East MCD Accountant explained, ‘When geographical division was proposed, we debated that it will be financially unviable because zonal accounts, assets and liabilities were known to us, showing that one corporation will have a surplus and two will have a deficit’.

Even though this might be known to the Congress-led Delhi government that trifurcated MCD, no attempt was made to make MCD financially sustainable. In an interview with Sheila Dikshit she acknowledged that MCD was never financially sustainable and it is the Delhi government's responsibility to provide the difference amount. Perhaps that’s why East MCD managed to make ends meet during her tenure as financial aid was provided. The situation worsened with AAP-government as it is accused of trying to malign MCD to throw BJP out of power.

Sources of revenue

Thus post trifurcation, East MCD’s sources of revenue did not increase whereas the bureaucracy expanded at the top-level. The paraphernalia attached to that multiplied.

Even though East MCD was able to procure sanitation equipment using Plan funding, there is never enough money to pay for the salaries.

Devolution of funds is missing post-trifurcation, leading to deterioration of the SWM condition.

Unless we address this deeper problem, there’s no saying that a strike won’t happen again.

(The writer is a Research Associate at Vision India Foundation)

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