New Delhi: Delhi Lieutenant Governor V.K. Saxena has directed the Chief Secretary to look into a complaint of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) citing non-payment of bills to the tune of Rs 16 crore by Delhi Government to over 1000 Dalit workers engaged in cleaning of sewer lines in the national capital through Delhi Jal Board (DJB).
Expressing displeasure over this delay in payments, the LG said this was a “serious matter’ and asked the CS to take immediate steps to clear all “genuine claims” of these Dalit sanitation workers before Diwali so that these marginalised workers do not face any hardship during the festivals, said a source.
The direction has come in wake of a representation made by DICCI led by chairman Milind Kamble who met the LG on September 30, complaining about the apathy of the Delhi Government towards these Dalit workers who are the first generation entrepreneurs.
Delhi Jal Board had signed an agreement with DICCI for implementing a technology-based solution for sewer cleaning to eliminate manual scavenging in Delhi on February 28, 2019. Under the agreement, 189 contractors from the marginalised communities were engaged by DJB for cleaning of the sewer lines. These contractors engaged over 1000 sanitation workers who are responsible for cleaning of sewers in the DJB areas.
According to the source, these contractors purchased sewer cleaning machines with loan assistance under the ‘Stand up India’. The State Bank of India has extended the term loan up to 90 per cent of the project cost, i.e. Rs 40 lakh for each machine and the remaining 10 per cent of the margin money was brought in by the Dalit entrepreneurs.
However, due to non-payment of bills by Delhi Government, these Dalit workers have been forced to go without salary for several months and the contractors are unable to meet the critical recurring expenses like the fuel, operation and maintenance and repayment of bank EMIs, the official source added.
While meeting the LG, DICCI Chairman Dr Kamble alleged that these Dalit contractors and workers are in the 4th year of their service with the DJB, but ever since they have been facing acute crisis. He alleged that a lobby active in the DJB was constantly trying to fail these poor Dalit sanitation workers so that the sewer cleaning work again goes back to the old contractors.
According to the complaint, the contract between DJB and DICCI stipulates the release of payment to the contractors every month but never in these 4 years, have timely payments been made to these Dalit entrepreneurs. These contractors faced the worst crisis during the Covid-19 lockdown when the Delhi Government did not release their payments for several months even as their entire fleet of the sewer cleaning machines was engaged by the government for special sanitation drive across the city, causing hardships to these Dalit frontline workers, the complaint read.