High Court comes down hard on Shimla's striking civic staff

The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Saturday directed the striking safai karamcharis or sanitation workers of the Shimla Municipal Corporation to resume work as garbage cannot be allowed to remain uncollected within the city.

"A handful of employees cannot hold the city to ransom and more so at this point in time when the tourist season is at its peak," a division bench led by acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol observed.

The municipal solid waste had to be collected and disposed of, in accordance with law, at the earliest, it added.

The court took suo motu cognizance of the strike by municipal employees for the past three days over various demands that resulted in some streets in the tourist resort being choked with garbage.

"The workers engaged by the SEHB (Shimla Environment, Heritage Conservation and Beautification) Society must immediately resume work and discharge their duties, for which they stand engaged," said the bench, also comprising Justice Ajay Mohan Goel.

"We fail to understand as to why for the last three days no steps has been taken against the workers under the statutory provisions and more specifically under the Himachal Pradesh Essential Services (Maintenance) Act of 1973."

During the hearing, the court was informed that finances of the SEHB Society were augmented and payments to its workers released, but despite that the workers employed for collection of door-to-door garbage and its disposal were on strike.

Directing the district police chief to take action, including detaining such people who obstruct or cause hindrance in the enforcement of provisions of law, the bench asked the municipal corporation to terminate the services and employ new people for disposal of municipal solid wastes if the striking workers did not join their duties.

Listing the case for next hearing on May 7, the court asked the district administration and the Himachal Pradesh State Pollution Control Board to file an affidavit on the compliance report.



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