HT Clean My Chandigarh Campaign | Good riddance to bad rubbish
Although the city has a robust rehabilitation policy, there appears to be no end in sight to the perennial problem of squatters. The three slums in the city not only lack sanitation but are also a potential breeding ground for diseases. What we need is a policy of prevention and education.punjab Updated: Jun 09, 2017 15:01 IST
Sanitation is high on the agenda of Resident Welfare Associations in the city. From creating awareness about cleanliness and employing workers for garbage collection to maintaining parks, they are the key to a well-groomed sector. Made up of volunteers, these associations were set up to bridge the gap between the Municipal Corporation (MC) and the people. HT correspondents met some RWAs to find this was far from true. Most of these associations are driven by motivated netizens with little or no support from the corporation.
NAME AND SHAME
This is the strategy employed by the Sector 47 Resident Welfare Association to teach the litterbugs a lesson they don’t forget in a hurry. “Whenever we find anyone throwing garbage in open, we pick up the bag thrown by the person, and return it to him/her,” says Sukhwinder Singh Sidhu, who has been the president of the resident welfare association, Sector 47, for the last eight years.
But it’s a strategy fraught with danger. “Often, people take offence and start quarrelling with us,” says Sidhu. “They never admit that they have thrown the garbage. One senior citizen had to even show cigarette butts in the polybag to the man to prove that it was thrown by his wife,” Sidhu recalls. The man who has helmed the Sector 47 RWA for eight years now, rues that there is utter lack of co-ordination between the Municipal Corporation and the safai karmacharis as well as the company contracted with cleaning the city. “The safai workers go on strike at the drop of hat. There is no one to lift the garbage for days at stretch,” fumes Sidhu.
But he also holds residents equally responsible for poor sanitation. “They don’t take the initiative of cleaning up their city. They expect others to clean up after them. Some of them even refuse to pay Rs 100 a month to garbage collectors and then dump the waste on the sly.”
Sidhu’s solution to the garbage problem is simple. “The administration should involve the RWAs so that all the initiatives taken by it are implemented. RWAs work at the grassroots and can effectively help the administration in enforcing its programs, be it segregation of waste or checking the litterbugs.”
The president of RWA, Sector 39, Amardeep Singh, has taken on the task of spreading awareness among residents to discourage them from throwing garbage in the open. So he and his team of volunteers go from house to house, and request people not to litter in public spaces. “We request residents not to throw garbage in the open. Things have started improving.”
Despite a door-to-door system of garbage collection in Chandigarh, many residents still throw garbage in the dark and isolated corners of their locality. “Garbage collectors don’t pick up trash from the roadside and MC employees only sweep the road. Cleanliness of the entire sector is nobody’s baby,” rues KK Kaul, former president of RWA, Sector 39.
“The garbage pickers are erratic when it comes to garbage collection. Most of the residents staying on rent are tenants who leave the trash bag near the stairs before going to office. But by the time the garbage collector comes, stray dogs have already torn these bags,” added Kaul.
What bothers Kaul more is the failure of the Chandigarh Housing Board and the MC to clear the debris dumped at various places in city. “The construction material should be removed at once.”
He too believes that increased participation of RWAs would definitely make a difference. “As of now, RWAs are responsible only for the maintenance of parks,” says Kaul. “These should be involved in spreading awareness about sanitation schemes. The MC should also use them to get feedback”.
Kaul also rues the “pick and choose” policy in constituting the ward committees. “These committees should include people who can make a difference. We need area-specific programmes to make Chandigarh a more beautiful city.”
Help yourself is the mantra of Surinder Sharma, president of RWA, Sector 15. Sharma is proud of the work his association is doing to keep the sector clean. “Our residents are very responsible. You won’t find them littering. Our senior citizens carry polybags with them to the park so that they can pick up any trash there.”
But Sharma is not happy with the MC. “I am in Chandigarh since 1967 and the major civic issues remain the same. Some problems have worsened with time but the MC has failed to solve them,” he rues.
Ne cited the illegal encroachments by vendors in Patel market, which lead to traffic jams. “There is no room for pedestrians on the sidewalks in Sector 15 market. Vendors have even eaten into the parking lots, forcing people to park their vehicles on the road leading to traffic jams,” he complains.
Talking about cleanliness in the residential areas, he said, “The sector was in a mess during autumn. Sweepers would clean the streets and make a heap of dry leaves, which would again scatter during the day. MC failed to develop an effective mechanism to dispose of the leaves.”
Sharma also criticised the filthy public toilets in the sector. “From the last 10 years, we have been demanding that the names and number of sweepers deployed in the sector be made public so that we can fix responsibility, but to no avail,” he said.
MC MUST TALK
Rajender Mohan Kashyap, president of RWA, Sector 22, was critical of the MC’s autocratic approach towards the residents. “The MC lacks communication skills. On May 28, I got a letter signed by MC Commissioner seeking the help of RWAs in making segregation of waste at household level a success.”
The letter mentioned that each house will be provided two free dustbins and segregation will begin by June 5. “Today is June 5. We have neither received any dustbins nor any further communication from the MC. An officer is assigned for every sector but he is yet to approach us,” said Kashyap.
Talking about cleanliness, he said, “At several places in the sector, you will find heaps of garbage. The entire lane near Kiran cinema is blocked by encroachers, making it difficult to cross it.”
The two-year-old association with 100 members feels awareness is the key to cleanliness.
DO IT YOURSELF
Sector 44 association believes the key to cleanliness lies in the hands of residents. Ravinder Singh, president of Akash Welfare Society, Sector 44, says, “We have engaged our own sanitation workers for collecting garbage and cleaning the sector.”
Singh complained that MC workers do not come to clean the area. “They always give the excuse of staff shortage.”
Welcoming the segregation of non-biodegradable and bio-degradable waste, Singh said, “We can implement it more effectively if MC engages with us,” he said.
He also complained about the poor functioning of the area councillors, both present and past.
The Sector 34 RWA runs like a welloiled machine with Col Kartar Singh Cheema (retd) at the controls.
There are around 30 parks in Sector 34, but all of them are well maintained thanks to the RWA. “We have a coordinator for every park who has group of four members under him,” says Col Cheema. “He is like a sarpanch, and he resolves the issues of houses around that park. Only the unresolved issues come to me,”
This RWA was also among the first to initiate the project of collecting garbage from house to house. It started by charging Rs 70 per house and has now raised it Rs 90. “Earlier, the charge for the ground floor was lesser than that for the first and second floor,” said Col Cheema. “But the residents protested, and we decided to levy a uniform charge for all.”
He rues that MC has done little to clear encroachments in market places and dumping of garbage in open areas.
The next target for this RWA is segregation of waste.