Gurmukh Saudeo has been a sanitation worker of the municipal corporation of Delhi for nearly 28 years. He operates in East Delhi, cleaning the streets of Mayur Vihar Phase 1 and Patparganj, working nearly 9 hours a day (6am-3pm) to feed a family of 6. He says not getting his salary since November has made him a lot more aware of how dependent he was on all the money that came in.
As a registered worker of the MCD, he says he receives Rs 25,000 a month of which he receives an in-hand amount of Rs 21,000 while the rest goes into his provident fund. As an active member of the ongoing protest, he said, “Our fight is not solely due to the fact that we have not received our salaries. We have not received arrears due to us for four years now. In addition, medical expenses and the Diwali bonus that we are entitled to have also been suspended for the past four years.” Medical benefits and a Diwali bonus, he says, account for Rs 3,000.
He also has complaints about the equipment the workers receive and believes it is a matter that should have been given more attention during the protests. “The authorities keep reassuring us that adequate equipment would be given to us when we manually clean street corners and large garbage dumps. Wet waste often emits terrible odours and we are given only a thin mask and a pair of old rubber gloves. When these wither, we are almost never given replacements.”
Saudeo has four children – two sons and two daughters – all of who currently study in schools that are run by the MCD. However, this was not always the case. His elder daughter and elder son, both of whom currently study in MCD schools, went to private school till 2013. Once the salary inconsistency began to set in, they were both moved to MCD schools. His wife Rani, a private worker who earns around Rs 4,000 a month elaborates, “The little money that I bring in is being used to pay for my children’s tuition fees since we can no longer afford to send them to private school. I have also had to ask my employer to loan me money to pay for our electricity bill. We are lucky that two of us make money, many families here have only one earner and the situation for them is a lot more dire.”