The report of the Union urban development ministry on the levels of cleanliness, or the lack of it, in 476 Indian cities makes the case for Swachh Bharat even stronger.
It also lends solidity to the theory that the public spirit of the people is much weaker in cities and towns than in rural areas because the sense of belonging is all but absent in most. In an implied sense that is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi had talked about on August 15 last year, leading to the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Though the government has clarified that the rankings were based on the findings before the Swachh Bharat mission was launched, from next year the mission will be a weighted component in any survey the establishment undertakes.
The criteria adopted for the rankings have been the extent of open defecation, solid waste management, water treatment, etc. A striking feature of the report is that while the part of Delhi that falls under the New Delhi Municipal Council ranks 16th, Delhi is at 397th place.
This is something that should set the alarm bells ringing for the Arvind Kejriwal government. However, the most striking part of the report is that seven of the 10 cleanest cities are from the south, and Bengaluru, despite its precipitate decline over the past 10 years, has performed the best among the capitals. Only one city, Etawah, from Uttar Pradesh features among the top 100.
However, Lucknow, Agra, Kanpur and Allahabad have been put on the 100 smart cities list.
The budget this year had announced full tax exemption for contributions to the Swachh Bharat Kosh. Moreover, it also talked about building 60 million toilets, though no timeframe was given for this.
More than Rs 90 crore was spent on campaign advertising in 2014-15. But nothing will work unless states become partners in cleaning our cities. And making our cities livable cannot be an exercise in isolation divorced from other developmental activities.