One is a lonely number, two only slightly less so. This is a fact especially, if the pair is shouldering the weight of a campaign initiated by none other than the Prime Minister himself.
Ask the two-odd safai karamcharis who make up the total strength of the permanent sanitation workforce at Namli in Ratlam district. The duo is tasked with collecting garbage generated by the town's 10,000 residents.
Or take Nepanagar in Burhanpur district whose 30,000 residents do not have a single permanent safai karamchari. The entire garbage collection and disposal system here relies on people hired on a daily wage basis.
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Even as attention remains focussed on the Swachh Bharat campaign, a crippling lack of workers is stymieing cleanliness efforts in small towns and cities. "We hire 30 daily wagers for sweeping and other works," said Nepanagar Nagar Palik Parishad chief municipal officer (CMO) Sudhakar Kubde.
The CMO says that despite the lack of permanent employees the Nagar Palik Parishad has made ‘comprehensive sanitation arrangements including door-to-door collection' for the roughly 6,000 households.
Kubde said 19 of the 24 wards are located in land leased to Nepa Mills which makes its own arrangements for sanitation. "Sometimes we have to provide assistance if there is a demand from residents," he added.
Although the exact figures for per capita waste generation are unavailable for cities with a population of less than one lakh, experts say the figure would be around 200-300 grams.
Similarly, norms are in place for the number of sanitation workers in cities with a population of 5 lakh or more, corresponding data is unavailable for smaller towns.
"Small towns hold the key to the cleanliness of India," said activist Almitra Patel, whose petition in the SC led to the framing of the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000, when contacted over the phone.