Islamabad turns into a city of garbage Sanitary workers strike enters 5th day over non-payment of salary

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Zubair Qureshi

Residents of Islamabad, particularly those living in G-series sectors (G-5 to G-14) have been facing Karachi-like situation for the last five days as sanitary workers, sweepers, garbage collectors and cleaners are on strike in protest against non-payment of salary for the last five months.
The recent tug-of-war between Chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Mayor of the Metropolitan Corporation of Islamabad (MCI) over financial control of the funds has cost heavily to the city and its residents and bureaucracy seems to be denying rights to an elected city government and as a result the city is suffering.
Mayor Sheikh Ansar Aziz has moved an application in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) against denial of financial authority but CDA bosses with the support of the federal government are least interested in the uplift of the city or solution of the civic and municipal problems.
Some 1500 sanitary workers on Wednesday staged a sit-in at the Melody Chowk in front of the Mayor’s office reiterating they would not call off their protest unless their five-month salary is paid.
They are planning close-down of Zero Point today (Thursday).
Meanwhile, talking to Pakistan Observer Deputy Mayor of MCI Zeshan Naqvi regretted the bureaucratic mindset that is behind this standoff between the workers and the Islamabad administration. “They [CDA and its hierarchy] on purpose want the MCI to fail as they are not releasing funds,” said Naqvi. Administratively Mayor is empowered but CDA wields powers with regard to utilization of funds, he said.
CDA labour leader Chaudhry Yasin is of the view that traditionally municipal affairs of Islamabad’s G-series are taken care of by private contractors. “These private contractors employ sanitary workers on daily wages and pay them around Rs12,500 monthly and in return CDA Sanitation Directorate releases funds to these contractors. However, for the last five months, private contractors have not been paid and in return they have stopped payment to these workers,” said Ch Yasin.
He urged the CDA Chairman and the Directorate concerned to release funds at the earliest so that residents of Islamabad’s G sectors could heave a sigh of relief in fresh air.
At present these sectors are littered with garbage and trash and foul smell emitting from these heaps of garbage has made public life miserable. Ch Yasin also questioned Rs12,500 being paid to the sanitary workers which is far below the minimum wages of Rs17000 fixed by the government in the last budget.
An official of the CDA when contacted for reaction said the matter will be resolved soon as the authority has taken notice of the strike and talks with the sanitary workers are underway.
Meanwhile, Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday ruled garbage should be removed from different sites in Islamabad on emergency basis. The apex court gave these orders while hearing the Bani Gala encroachment case. The CDA chairman and the mayor have been ordered to submit progress reports in a month.
Justice Umar Ata Bandial while hearing the case remarked that authorities have displayed ‘bureaucratic behaviour’ in the court. “We were told something and the reality is something else,” he observed.