According to the urban development ministry’s Swachh Survekshan survey of the cleanest cities in India, in a list of 434 cities covered, five of the bottom ten are in the state of Uttar Pradesh — Gonda (rank 434), Hardoi (rank 431), Bahraich (rank 429), Shahjahanpur (rank 426), and Khurja (rank 425). This ignominy should be a wake-up call for the most populous state in India. With a newly-elected Chief Minister who has claimed that his focus is going to be on development, this may be a good time to begin a state-wide movement on cleanliness. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan will also get a fillip from the efforts of the state.
The question of cleanliness is not just one of optics alone. It is not just the fact that a city stinks or looks awful because of piles of rubbish; nor is it the fact that the low rankings compared to other states make UP look bad. This is a much more serious question of public health and sanitation. According to observers, the sanitation situation in Gonda is worsening by the day. Commuting is difficult as garbage heaps are common and there is a permanent stench in the air. This is exactly the sort of situation that invites water and vector borne diseases such as Japanese encephalitis that ravage Uttar Pradesh routinely. As the summer peaks and the monsoon arrives, the spread of diseases is only expected to get worse. It would be a tragedy if in spite of the knowledge of the problem, we fail to take steps to solve it in a timely and effective fashion.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has taken a positive step with the banning of paan masala and gutka in government offices. While it is a welcome move in terms of health; its cleanliness consequences will only reflect in cleaner corridors and staircase landings. The state at large is facing a massive health and sanitation crisis; and the number of cities from Uttar Pradesh in the bottom half of the list should be cause for immediate alarm.