Home Lead Story ‘No designation and delayed salaries’: Hard lives of Delhi’s Dengue Breeding Checkers

‘No designation and delayed salaries’: Hard lives of Delhi’s Dengue Breeding Checkers

Dengue Breeding Checkers protesting in New Delhi in February 2022. | Photo by author

Even after rendering their services for more than 25 years now, these contractual workers feel exploited and left out. 

Sanjana Chawla | TwoCircles.net

NEW DELHI —  Thousands of Dengue Breeding Checkers or DBCs work on the streets of the national capital New Delhi to limit the caseload of Dengue, a mosquito-borne viral disease occurring in tropical and subtropical areas. Hired on a contractual basis, these DBCs work hard to keep check the spread of dengue and malaria. They are responsible for visiting the houses in the national capital to check for breeding of mosquitoes in stagnant water, coolers, abandoned pots or any vacant spot, and they also spray anti-larva and fog to prevent the outbreak of mosquito-borne diseases.

There are over 3500 DBCs working in New Delhi and they were inducted within the municipality after the 1996 outbreak of dengue in the city which cost 410 lives. Ever since the workers have been working without fail but scores of them complain that ‘the government hasn’t done much for them.’

Speaking on the problems faced by the workers, a dengue breeding checker Devanand Sharma, President of the Anti Malaria Ekta Karamchari Union (AMEKU), told TwoCircles.net that despite being skilled and educated, they have no permanent posts in the department. “Our jobs are not stable or fixed as we are contractual workers. Unlike any government employee, we get no official holidays, health benefits, or pensions, etc,” he said. 

These workers were recently given the designation of MTS or Multi-Task Staff workers but that too is fraught with problems of overworking and uncertain work.

The workers have been raising their demands for a permanent post in front of the Municipal Commissioner for the last six years but all in vain. 

Speaking on the matter, the Municipal Health Officer of East Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Somnath Shekhar, told TwoCircles.net that the proposals regarding the regularization of the workers’ posts have been sent to the government and the process would take its time. The workers, however, aren’t convinced.

In addition to the lack of clarity on their designation and salaries, DBCs also face the brunt of the government’s apathy and Centre-State power relations. 

Madan Pal, General Secretary of the AMEKU, talked about how the government and those in authority make their problems and demand a part of their election manifesto to gain votes. “The MCD elections are said to happen soon. The contesting parties are luring us to vote for them on the pretext that if they win, they will fulfil our demand. All of them are making false promises of doing this and doing that if they win. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been heading the municipality for 15 years but they haven’t done anything so far. If any party can fulfil our demands and do something for us after they win, they can also do it right now,” he said. 

These workers were on duty during the peak of Covid-19 and many of them ended up getting exposed to the virus and dying. However, as per them “the government didn’t facilitate their treatment and gave no monetary relief or support to the family of the deceased.” 

“There are no medical or health provisions for the DBCs and we get help if we fall sick or break our hands or legs while working,” said Madhubala, a Dengue Breeding Checker. She said that instead of supporting the workers, the authorities deduct their salaries if they take leave and also give threats of terminating their jobs if they go on strikes.

With a salary of merely 15000 per month, the workers feel exploited as they work as Dengue Breeding Checkers as well as across other departments too without an increment or bonus. “We don’t just maintain the check of dengue but also go and work wherever we are asked to. We also collect house taxes, assist the cleanliness drives, look after the election-related work and also contribute to the housing department,” said Madhubala.

The workers raised concerns regarding the delay in the disbursement of their salaries and said that they haven’t received their dues in the last five months. 

“I feel helpless as I am not able to feed my family,” Domestic Breeding Checker Indraj Kaushik told TwoCircles.net. 

“Our salaries were increased just a year ago but we don’t receive our dues on time. The government takes 5-6 months to credit our salaries and the delay disrupts our living. No shopkeepers or any person can understand our plight or help us and they often question our work and duty because we never have enough money in our pockets,” Kaushik said. 

Madan Pal said that due to the unavailability of money, his son’s school teacher and principal have refused to give him the admit card for his upcoming class 10th boards. “My son’s teachers taunt him just because I am not able to pay his school and exam fees. They say derogatory things and often question my work. It’s not like I am not working, I am. But it’s the delay in our salaries that’s becoming a menace,” he said.

The workers have two main demands, which are “timely credit of their salaries and a permanent job designation or post.”

“At least now after 26 long years, the government should understand our situation and do something for us. We are not asking for an increment in our salaries or anything else but just a stable, permanent designation. We deserve some recognition and all we want is an identity, a name of our own,” Madhubala added.

Sanjana Chawla is a journalism student at AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi and a freelance writer. She covers stories on women, society, culture, lifestyle, and entertainment.