Although ranked the cleanest city in Haryana, nothing much seems to have changed on the ground in Panchkula since the launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan amid much fanfare last year.
Panchkula was ranked 229 out of 476 cities in the recently announced All India Swachh Bharat Ranking. Despite Panchkula being the only planned city of Haryana, eyesores remain aplenty.
Claims of the authorities of improving the sanitation system do not hold water. All it takes is a visit to different parts of the city to find the reality. Heaps of garbage and litter strewn across roads and overflowing dumpers with rotting garbage are a common site.
Commuters, both from the city and nearby areas, are welcomed by litter strewn all over the place at the Sector 5 bus stand. Stinking lavatories, lack of adequate drinking water arrangements and illmaintained building point to the apathy of the authorities concerned. The pillars at the bus stand are carrying stains of ‘paan’ and boundary walls are where people ease themselves.
“Things have not changed a bit. The bus stand continues to be a filthy place despite being frequented by a larger number of commuters daily,” said Satish Singh, a resident of Raipur Rani.
Shopping at Swastik Vihar, Sector 5, Mansa Devi Complex (MDC), is an unpleasant experience, thanks to the open drain filled with garbage, wild growth and wastewater stagnating in the open. MDC councillor Kuljit Kaur said the drain that passes through the market has made life miserable for the shopkeepers and people residing in the nearby areas. Kuljit Kaur said she had requested the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) to cover the drain on a number of occasions, but in vain.
Backyards of various markets have turned into slums with a number of migrants setting up their temporary shelters there. Toilets in most of the markets are either locked or are in a dilapidated condition. “People face a lot of inconvenience as toilets in most of the markets are in a bad shape,” said Raman Kaushal, a resident of Sector 4.
Kharak Mangoli, which is located at the heart of the city, too, paints a filthy picture as well. Garbage can be seen dumped just at the entrance to the village.
The Panchkula municipal corporation is grappling with the shortage of sanitation workers. For a population of 5.6 lakh, with 1.16 lakh households, there are around 515 sanitation workers. The sanctioned strength is of 990.
Acknowledging the fact, mayor Upinder Kaur Walia said the staff shortage has been a cause of concern, but despite that the corporation has been putting in a lot of efforts to keep the city clean.
As per the Haryana government rules, there should be one sanitation worker for every 400 residents, but due to staff shortage, the MC has failed to follow the norms. To overcome the shortage of sanitation workers, the civic body has decided to outsource work at some wards to a private firm. “To begin with, we have decided to outsource sanitation work at ward number 9. All the work will be carried out by private workers under the MC’s supervision,” said Panchkula municipal commissioner Jagdeep Dhanda.
Villages under the MC control are the worst-hit by the shortage of sanitation workers. In almost all villages, not even a single worker has been deployed. To make the matter worse, there is no proper system of collection and disposal of garbage. Mayor Walia acknowledged the fact that staff crunch had taken its toll in villages.
Salim Khan, councillor from ward number 20, which covers 20 villages, said the authorities had turned a blind eye to villages and were least interested in keeping these clean. ”The Swachh Bharat campaign will fail if the authorities continue to ignore the villages,” said Khan.
No solid waste management plant
The civic body is responsible for proper disposal and management of solid waste. The waste collected in Panchkula, Pinjore and Kalka is currently being dumped at the dumping ground in Sector 23, as a temporary measure. It is causing a threat to the residents of Sectors 23, 24, 25 and 26 besides the thick vegetation in the area. The project of setting up a solid waste management plant over 12.5 acres of area in Jhuriwala village is hanging fire. With limited resources, the MC has not been able to provide door-todoor garbage collection. Private contractors collect garbage from houses and throw it in dustbins placed in each sector. From here the garbage is lifted by the MC staff and dumped in Sector 23.