In a major policy decision that could lead to layoffs, the Trinamul Congress-controlled civic board is working on a move to privatise conservancy services in phases. “It will be cost-effective and ensure better service,” said mayor Subrata Mukherjee, before leaving for Honolulu to attend the South East Asia and Pacific mayors’ conference. Solid waste management is the main theme of discussion at the meet.
“However, it does not mean that the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) will retrench mazdoors on its payroll. But we shan’t recruit new mazdoors to fill vacancies, and we shall relocate the existing force,” said the mayor.
The move may lead to the recovery of over 50 bighas, worth Rs 300 crore. Quarters of the conservancy labourers (mazdoors) in prime locations, like New Market, Judges’ Court Road, Grey Street, Baithakkhana Road, Moulali and Entally are located there.
City conservancy chief Rajib Deb said initially, a pilot scheme would be introduced in a borough area on an experimental basis. About a crore people in the city generate 2,400 tonnes of garbage daily, and the CMC conservancy department is responsible for clearing and dumping it away from the city. On this alone, the CMC spends Rs 50 crore a year.
“Now, 50 per cent of the garbage generated daily is cleared, carried away and dumped by the CMC department. Contractors take care of the rest. The annual expenditure on this head would drop to within Rs 15 crore if the entire clearing service is entrusted with private contractors,” said Mukherjee.
According to civic engineers’ estimates, the Rs 35 crore thus saved could buy a 10-million-gallon-capacity water treatment plant or concretise a road of C.R. Avenue’s length every year.
“We have already submitted a draft comparative statement to the mayor and municipal commissioner Debashis Som,” said chief engineer (conservancy) Arun Sarkar. According to the comparative statement, the CMC will pay Rs 6 crore a year to contractors to clear and dump 1,200 tonnes of garbage daily, against Rs 43 crore a year spent to remove an equal volume of garbage by its own employees and vehicles.
Contractors are a lot more efficient, too. To remove 1,200 tonnes of garbage, the CMC deploys 6,000 employees daily. The contractors make do with 700 labourers. Contractors’ labour cost 15 paise per head, against 98 paise for CMC mazdoors.
“Taxpayers’ money is misused by hiring rickshaw vans used for conservancy services in the added areas of Behala, Garden Reach and Jadavpur,” said Shaktibrata Ghosh, officer on special duty to the mayor. “The cost of removing a tonne of garbage in rickshaw vans is almost 10 times that of carrying waste in trucks,” said assistant director (conservancy) Swapan Mahapatra.