Heaps of garbage lie unattended along a Jharia street on Wednesday. Picture by Gautam Dey
The idea of spring cleaning is lost on Dhanbad, where sanitation workers have ceased work for over a week over salary dues and water division employees plan to join the protest bandwagon from October 20.
More than 20 lakh residents in Jamaboda, Katras, Jharia town, Chirkunda, North Tisra, Lodna, Bastacola, Dhansar, Kendua, Godhar, Putki, Tethulmari, Loyabad and Moonidih — who depend on Mada for garbage disposal and water supply — have been spending sickening days in the run-up to the festive season.
If their Navratra started on Tuesday amid mounds of filth and overflowing drains, not to speak of the unbearable stench, their Durga Puja will begin on Saturday with water from dirty mine pits or defunct hand pumps and drying wells. Even if Mada decides on tanker supply, it may not be enough for drinking and washing needs of so many people.
“I am fasting for Navratra. When I visit the temple on Main Road, I stumble upon garbage. The situation was never so pathetic in the past,” said Kartik Sao (28), a resident of Hetli Bandh in Jharia.
Around 800 sanitation department employees — under the banner of Akhil Bharatiya Safai Mazdoor Sangh — went on an indefinite strike from October 8 over a 36-point charter of demands, bringing all cleanliness and disease control campaigns to a halt.
Topping their wish list is one-time payment of their pending 20 months’ salary, which is followed by demand for a promised uniform allowance of Rs 2,500 to every worker.
Toeing them, more than 600 employees of water division are planning to launch an indefinite strike from Shashthi. Their salaries are pending for two months, besides they also want dearness allowance arrears of Rs 10,000 each and pending uniform allowance.
The “cash-strapped” Mada administration, led by managing director Alok Trivedi, failed to reach an agreement with the protesting workers on two occasions — on October 10 and October 15 — because it was unwilling to pay more than a month’s salary.
A four-member delegation led by mazdoor sangh general secretary Ganga Balmiki on Wednesday left for New Delhi to meet National SC/ST Commission member Rajkumar Bairak on October 18.
Trivedi said Mada was facing acute funds crunch. “Despite odds, a month’s salary will be given. Salaries will reach bank accounts within a couple of days. We have also written to BCCL to clear a bill of Rs 3.5 crore in lieu of water supply,” he maintained.