Health hazard haunts Shimla city as garbage collection heads towards total collapse
Then-Mayor, Sanjay Chauhan, had criticised the sanitation workers for their demand of hike saying they were being paid maximum wages as compared to entire India. Surprisingly, now he supported the striking workers and said the MC should accept their demands.
Shimla: The Shimla Municipal Corporation has issued a notice warming the striking workers of the Shimla Environment, Heritage and Beautification (SHEB) Society to resume the work by Sept 21.
Otherwise, it cautioned the workers, the door-to-door garbage collection work will be outsourced. A proposal regarding the same was floating in the MC House recently. The decision was taken in a meeting of governing body held on September 19.
On the other hand, the workers said they will prefer mass resignation than ending the strike. President of the SHEB Society, Jaswant Singh, warned the drivers who are still collecting garbage from collection points will also join the strike from Thursday.
Shimla MC hardly has any backup plan to deal with such a situation, which can worsen the sanitation situation of Shimla. It would imply that no garbage would be collected even from collection points.
This situation could lead to sanitation crisis and health hazards related to poor sanitation.
The residents were hopeful that the sanitation workers would end their strike after the seventh annual general meeting (AGM) of the Society on September 18. The Urban Development Minister, Sudhir Sharma, had presided over AGM after the civic body had said he would take the final call over the demands of the striking workers.
The minister gave nod to only 10 percent hike with an assurance that a proposal for a policy recommending 10 percent annual hike in wages will be sent to the government for an approval.
The civic body had expressed its inability to hike their wages due to financial crunch. SMC said it is earning much less than it is spending on SHEB Society.
However, the workers continued their strike as the AGM failed to satisfy them to resume work.
What do SHEB Workers Want?
After seven years of formation of SHEB Society and implementation of door-to-door garbage collection service, the capital city is still struggling with management of solid waste. Though Shimla city did not remain free from littering, the service had proved beneficial in waste management.
The workers are on strike again and the public is feeling free to burn or throw their garbage in forests or in nullahs. The garbage is scattered on roadsides raising a stink. People are not convenient in carrying their garbage daily to collection points.
Unfortunately, as the MC had declared the city as ‘dumper free’ and removed most of the dumpers claiming the door-to-door service was working at 100 percent efficiency, and that there was no need of dumpers.
After a while, the SMC had to place dumpers at some places, and as the current circumstances suggest, MC might need to bring the “dumper method” back.
People, from one locality or other, always complained irregularity in the working of the SHEB Society workers.
However, since 2015, SHEB workers have gone on strike several times over their demands regarding regularization under Shimla Municipal Corporation, as promised to them. The SHEB workers also demanded the corporation to provide them information regarding the recruitment, ESI, Employee Provident Fund accounts etc.
The SHEB Society had alleged then Mayor of Shimla, Sanjay Chauhan, and Deputy Mayor, Tikender Singh Panwar, of harassing the workers by not regularizing them under the MC.
In 2010, a door-to-door garbage collector was receiving Rs. 3300 as monthly salary. In 2015, the salary was increased to 7,700. With this hike in their wages went up the cost of service for the residents and clients who fall under 20 categories like dhabas, tea stalls, hotels, restaurants etc. These charges were between Rs 50 to Rs 1,000 per month depending upon the category.
These allegations were rubbished by then-Deputy Mayor. He had explained that the workers do not understand that only state government is eligible for taking such decisions.
SHEB workers had also alleged the SMC and the Urban Development Department ignoring their health. They had alleged the civic body did not provide them with gloves, proper carry-bags, raincoats etc. The president of the society said 19 workers have died and several others are suffering from jaundice. However, he said, they have not received any relief from the civic body.
In 2015, the SMC had to issue a warning to the workers to join their duty back or face termination under Essential Services Maintenance Act. Notices were also issued to several workers.
Then-Mayor, Sanjay Chauhan, had criticised the sanitation workers over their strike regarding the merger in the MC as regular employees. He had said the workers were being paid maximum wages as compared to entire India.
He supported the striking workers and said the MC should accept their demands.
In 2017, the workers again went on strike multiple times, which lead to the creation of ugly scene as garbage heaps and littering increased.
This tug-of-war between the civic body and the workers continues in September 2017 too. The workers have locked horns with the SMC over their demands which include a minimum wage of Rs. 10,500 per month.
The workers say they are currently receiving Rs 6,700 per month, which is not sufficient to meet ends.
If the government can increase the salaries of officers and ministers by 50 percent or even 100 percent, why it does not make a 10 percent hike for poor like us who do menial jobs,
said workers in a statement to media.
Waste Management/Segregation Still a Distant Dream
Door-to-door garbage collection service that now covers not only 38,000 residential buildings but also the beneficiaries who fall under 20 categories like dhabas, tea stalls, hotels, restaurants etc. in all 34 wards, is best suited for a hilly region like Shimla.
Majority of houses are not connected to roads in Shimla city, therefore, garbage collection is not possible through vehicles.
The SHEB society was formed in 2010 after the High Court had directed the civic body to make proper policy for collection and segregation of non-biodegradable and bio-degradable garbage at the household level.
Back then, the citizens were given a yellow dustbin for non-biodegradable waste, i.e. plastic, metal, stone etc. and green dustbins for bio-degradable waste, i.e. raw and waste foodstuff, paper etc.
In 2017, waste segregation remains a distant dream as the civic body is not even able to collect garbage. Eventually, now there is a great probability that the door-to-door garbage collection work will be given to a private contractor or some NGO.
Neverthless, till the things come back on track, residents should support the corporation by not taking it for granted to dispose of garbage in forests or nulluhas or burn it to pollute air because door-to-door garbage collectors are on strike. To keep your own city clean and prevent the health hazards, try to carry the garbage to the collection points to make it easier for the corporation to transport it through vehicles.
If it is not picked up from these collection points, then there is every reason to criticise the civic body.
Here is the list of ward-wise list of contact numbers of the Nodal Officers appointed by the MC to look after the removal of garbage from various collection points:
Ward Mobile Number
Kachhi Ghati 9459743003
Krishna Nagar 8894126752
Ram Bazaar 9418029908
Lower Bazaar 9418014593
Engine Ghar 9418016782
Sanjauli Chowk 9817222688
Upper Dhalli 9418064474
Lower Dhali 9418608263
Shanit Vihar 9418038021
Chotta Shimla 9418092015
Patiyog (पटियोग )9816316754
New Shimla 9418062620