The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which overlaps with multiple schemes being run by the state and central governments, was launched to make India clean by 2019.
But the much-publicised campaign has failed to make much impact in Punjab with garbage strewn in villages, towns and cities all over the state. If anything, the situation appears to have worsened in the past one year. “The campaign is more about personal initiative by residents which requires a change in thinking. It takes a lot of time,” according to JM Balamurugan, the chief executive officer of Punjab Municipal Infrastructure Development Company (PMIDC), which functions under the state local bodies department.
RURAL BETTER THAN URBAN
Though things appear to have started moving in the right direction in some rural areas, the challenge lies in the cities and towns that are lagging because the garbage disposal system is in a shambles and is still to be connected with sewage treatment plants and solid waste management system.
“There is awareness among villagers that open defecation is unhygienic. They want toilets in homes,” Ajoy Sharma, additional special secretary, water supply and sanitation, told HT. A grant of Rs 15,000 is given by the Centre and the state in 60:40 ratio for building household toilets. The state is providing money from the funds it got from the World Bank for water supply and sanitation projects.
Sharma said the target was to make 1,000 villages “open defecation free” by October 31 and 2,000 villages in another three months. “Over 13,000 swachhta clubs covering all panchayats are involved in morning surveillance to check open defecation. The effort has proved beneficial in creating awareness,” he said.
The authorities have planned 41,000 individual toilets and 270 community toilets with PMIDC, identifying spots for the same. However, there are problems pertaining to cost estimates and fund releases. While the Centre has allowed `26,000 for one seat in community toilets, the actual cost is `1.5 lakh. The delay in fund releases to the state government is proving to be an obstacle. “Of the `30 crore already spent in the rural areas, we have got only `10 crore,” remarked an official.
In the urban sector too, the government has received only `41 crore, whereas it has spent a lot more.
Punjab has been working on solid waste management since 2009. When the cleanliness mission replicated its projects last year, PMIDC was made the nodal agency for the campaign. The state has been divided into eight clusters, including Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Ferozepur, Bathinda, SAS Nagar, Pathankot, Amritsar and Patiala, each covering 20-25 urban civic bodies. While the work is in advanced stages in Bathinda, Ferozepur and Jalandhar clusters, SAS Nagar and Patiala are still in the process of identifying land. The project has taken a tad too long and making all clusters functional may take a few years. Local bodies minister Anil Joshi said that the government was contemplating action against private players for non-performance.
NO CHANGE ON GROUND
Bathinda: Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had kicked off the Clean India campaign from Shekhpura village, 35 km from Bathinda, on October 3 last year. He had administered the oath to officials and citizens to keep their surroundings clean, but nothing has changed since. Garbage heaps dot the village and open defecation is rampant with over 20% residents relieving themselves in the open.
The district administration is also sitting on a proposal of the panchayat, headed by an Akali supporter, for the construction of permanent toilets in 300 households for past six months. “The campaign was launched from our village, but there is nothing for us. We still face the same old problems,” says sarpanch Ram Kumar.
The village has no permanent sweeper and the authorities haven’t released the contractual sweeper’s meagre pay of Rs 300 for the past two years. Government schools are also without sweepers.