Rubbish piles up in New Delhi as collectors go on strike, dump garbage outside ministers' homes

Traffic passes by a pile of garbage following a strike by municipal workers in New Delhi on Feb 1, 2016.
Traffic passes by a pile of garbage following a strike by municipal workers in New Delhi on Feb 1, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Rubbish piled up on New Delhi's streets on Monday (Feb 1) as refuse collectors vowed to push ahead with a nearly week-long strike, the latest crisis to hit the world's most polluted city.

Already reeling from dangerously high levels of toxic smog, the Indian capital is now grappling with uncollected garbage that has been mounting in parts of the city since Jan 27.

Sanitation workers on Monday dumped rubbish outside a Delhi government minister's home, one of several targeted as part of the protest over unpaid salaries.

"The Delhi government spends millions on advertisements, why can't it release the funds for our salaries," said Mr Sanjay Gehlot, president of an umbrella group of 60,000 to 80,000 protesting municipal workers.

"Today we dumped garbage outside the Delhi tourism minister's residence in our symbolic protest and caused roadblocks in other parts of the city," he told AFP, adding such protests would continue.

Using brooms and shovels, Delhi government ministers, along with other officials and volunteers from the Aam Aadmi Party, took to the streets at the weekend to clean up the rubbish.

The Delhi government has blamed the city's three municipal corporations, controlled by its arch rival, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules at the national level, for the crisis.

Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia reiterated on Monday his accusation that the corporations were withholding funds handed over by the government that were meant for workers' salaries.

"We have said this repeatedly that we have given the dues to the civic agencies," Mr Sisodia, whose home has also been targeted with piles of rubbish, told reporters.

"Now, the civic bodies must give accounts of what they did with the money and why aren't the workers getting paid," he said.

There was no immediate comment from the corporations on the strike, the second to hit the city in the last year.

It comes as Delhi has been shrouded in a toxic soup during the recent winter months, sparking government action to improve the air quality, which regularly exceeds the World Health Organization's safe limit.

A 2014 WHO survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted, partly because of the 8.5 million vehicles on its roads.