For seven months, the garbage contractors in Bengaluru have waited for payment from the civic body, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike and they are now demanding that outstanding bills worth Rs 360 crore must be paid immediately. The contractors are now threatening to stop garbage collection from November 5, if the BBMP does not clear these bills.
Speaking to TNM, Balasubramaniam, General Secretary of the SWM (Solid Waste Management) Garbage Contractors Association said that the BBMP had promised to pay outstanding bills in a meeting held on October 19. However, the Palike has now come up with a new rule for making payments. In 2019, the BBMP had issued notices to engineers at ward levels to ensure that the garbage contractors have radio-frequency identification installed in every auto-tipper deployed for garbage collection. This device can track the vehicle's movement. The BBMP had introduced this rule to ensure that garbage contractors do not overcharge the BBMP while billing.
"The BBMP had told us they were thinking about bringing in this rule. In 90% of the wards, the engineers had not told contractors that RFID devices must be installed. Now, the BBMP is saying they will pay only those who had installed RFID devices. During the lockdown, we came and collected garbage everyday. Now, the BBMP is causing us trouble," Balasubramaniam said.
The contractors say that the BBMP had only paid the amount due for the first quarter this year. The BBMP is yet to pay arrears amounting to Rs 40 crore for the first quarter in addition to Rs 320 crore for the months of April to October.
"The BBMP is now asking engineers to certify that vehicles were running during these months when RFID meters were not installed. During COVID-19 we did door to door collection. If we had not done this then what would have happened? Garbage would be lying around all the roads. Last month (October) on 19th the BBMP Commissioner had said that we would be paid the full amount. Today is November 3. Now they are saying only those with RFID meters will be reimbursed. Why should we work for such an agency?" Balasubramaniam questioned.
The garbage contractors are slated to meet BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad on Thursday to discuss the issues related to outstanding payments. "If they don't pay us, we will stop this work and we won't continue collecting garbage," Balasubramaniam added.
BBMP sources with the Solid Waste Management Department said that the agency has released Rs 70 crore to the accounts department, which are yet to be released for payment. "Depending on the financial condition, we will make the payment for June immediately. We will talk to the garbage contractors and begin reimbursing the money soon," BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad said.