For 12-year-old Binni, treading the one-kilometre stretch in Vishnupuri locality of Gonda with her mother every day to catch a three-wheeler to school has become an obstacle course. She hops, skips and jumps around overflowing heaps of garbage and filth strewn along the street in plastic bags, trying to keep the shine on her black shoes intact.
But by the time she returns home, her shoes are a muddy mess. “This is an everyday routine,” rues her mother Shanti, accompanying Binni on Friday morning as local news papers prominently report the Swachch Bharat survey released by the urban development ministry on Thursday which declared Gonda as the dirtiest city in the country.
Gonda was ranked 434th in the list and fared poorly on all parameters: waste collection, solid-waste management, construction of toilets, sanitation strategies and behaviour change communication.
“The ranking has not come as a surprise to us. In a state-level survey last year, Gonda had performed poorly,” said a resident of Malviya Ganj locality.
The State of the City
“In Gonda, you won’t find dustbins. Hence, you will see people tossing garbage-filled plastic bags from their balconies or drop it on roadside when they leave for office,” says Shiv Sharan Shukla (65), a resident of Civil Lines.
“Every day, while going to the temple, I walk carefully by the garbage heaps. Any vehicle passing by could splash the dirty water on my clothes,” he says.
Garbage usually lies on the roadside and much of it is burnt by safai (cleanliness) workers or residents. The city has 10 big drains connecting to smaller drains to take out sewage to the Bisuhi river. Almost all of them are choked with encroachment and the dirty water from houses overflows and seeps into the earth and mixes with the ground water.
According to residents, dustbins were placed in different wards years ago, but none is to be seen now.
Cleanliness being a priority of the state government, where even ministers picked up broom to clean offices, Gonda’s ranking is being viewed seriously. The district has seven assembly constituencies and all have BJP MLAs.
Residents say the Swachh Bharat mission, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was only a photo opportunity for officials and leaders.
The government has now summoned senior district officials for an explanation on the poor rankings.
But the officials blame it on poor resources and manpower. “There is no permanent head of the municipal corporation. Lack of cleaning staff and poor management is the reason why Gonda fared poorly,” said Gonda ADM, Triloki Singh, who holds the additional charge of municipal corporation president.
The city, with 1.5 lakh population, has 27 wards and the strength of safai (cleaning) workers is only 377.
“Vacant posts need to be filled to fix accountability,” Triloki Singh said.
“The need is to raise the number to at least 450 in the city to make sure each ward gets cleaning done every day,” said Kamla, a safai worker.
SDM and executive officer, Gonda municipal corporation, Ashish Kumar stressed on the need for a master plan including construction of drains, public toilets and also a scientific method to dispose garbage.
The district with a literacy rate of 58.1% (as per 2011 census) has over a dozen villages declared open defecation free, one of which was declared this week only – the only thing that comes as relief, for now.