Patna: The urban development and housing department’s (UDHD) arbitrary way of dealing with sanitation workers is set to mount the miseries of the citizen, asking for the most basic civic amenity—cleanliness.
Around 35,000 sanitation workers across 261 urban local bodies (ULBs), including 17 municipal corporations, have threatened to paralysed work, if the UDHD sought to enforce its ‘weird’ order of transferring the entire lots ‘in the name of model code of conduct’ for the ULBs’ polls, starting October 10.
Officials said that UDHD principal secretary Anand Kishore resorted to an unparalleled act to get even with the sanitation workers, who embarrassed him in the Patna high court during the last indefinite strike that ended on September 6 on the intervention deputy CM Tejashwi Prasad Yadav. Yadav also holds the UDHD portfolio.
Officials said that Kishore resorted to ask for the mass transfer after the Patna high court directed the department to consider demands of sanitation workers sympathetically and resolve them after holding dialogues with them against his will. Sanitation workers had gone on the strike on August 27, after the UDHD refused to adhere to the high court’s previous direction to sort out issues of sanitation workers despite notice by the Bihar urban local bodies sanyukt sangharsh morcha (BULBSSM).
The BULBSSM, an umbrella organisation of around 35,000 sanitation workers, has been spearheading a campaign to restore the post of sweepers and other sanitation workers in the ULBs for the last couple of years.
BULBSSM president Chandra Prakash Singh alleged that Bihar has become a unique state, where ULBs had no post of sanitation workers. “All the workers are either on contract or through outsourced agencies after the government amended the Bihar Municipal Act 2007 and did away with the posts sanitation workers,” claimed Singh, alleging that the UDHD bosses had been provoking strike by sanitation workers, who are on daily wages or through outsourced agencies, by issuing weird orders.
Sanitation workers of ULBs across the state have undertaken three major strike in the past three years after the UDHD issued the orders to relieve all casual workers in 2019, citing an order from Bihar Lokayukta. The Lokayukta’s order, however, was challenged in the Patna HC and set aside. Taking it as a personal blow, Anand again convinced the political masters and got the Bihar Municipal Act amended to do away with all the posts of sanitation workers.
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While the BULBSSM carried out three major strike across the state in February 2020, September 21 and September 22 in support of their demands, which included regularisation of their services and betterment of their service conditions, Patna municipal corporation (PMC), which looks after the delivery mechanism in the capital city, witnessed four more strike for shorter periods during the intervening phase.
BULBSSM president Singh said that they would resort to indefinite strike yet again if municipal bodies sought to enforce the UDHD orders to transfer the sanitation workers. “Currently, the orders are on hold owing to the ongoing election process of the ULBs,” said Singh.
The stand-off between sanitation workers and the departmental bosses has jeopardised cleanliness in the capital city of Patna, which aspires to join in the club of smart cities. Patna has been generally placed at the bottom of Swachhata Sarvekshan. While senior officers generally remained preoccupied with dealing with bellicose sanitation workers, other major projects like proper and scientific management of municipal wastes, maintenance and cleanliness of of drainage system and treatment of sewage left on the backseat.
In the last year’s Swachhata Sarvekshan, Patna was ranked at the bottom in terms of sanitation by earning 2739.92 marks out of the total 6000. The UDHD has roped in two agencies on huge payment to help Patna improve its tally in the upcoming Swachhata Sarvekshan, which will be carried out this year under changed guidelines on 9,500 points.