Can you name the Punjab city that figures on just about every ‘dirty’ list? No prizes for guessing. Ludhiana, it is. A year after the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) was launched, unbearable stink rising from garbage dumps with waste spilling out of bins and trash littered along city roads continue to depict a squalid picture of the city. The industrial township was on the ‘dirty’ list with a low rank when the union urban development ministry announced the Swachh Bharat rankings six weeks ago.
The SBA launch last year had got the administrative machinery and politicians, including the then municipal commissioner Pradeep Agarwal, deputy commissioner Rajat Agarwal and mayor Harcharan Singh Gohalwaria, in cleanliness mode, but it failed to make much difference in the absence of public participation. The firm engaged for solid waste management also failed to deliver.
All in all, it’s a sorry state of affairs in the city where open defecation is another challenge before the authorities. The city has a large migrant population working in factories. They live in vehras – a cluster of 10-20 rooms of 8x8 feet with one or at best two toilets per vehra. On an average, 50-80 of them live in one cluster and are forced to defecate in the open. Dhandari Kalan, Giaspura, Dugri, Dhandra Road, Punjabi Bagh, Fauji Colony and Tajpur Road are the worst-affected areas with thousands of migrants living in insanitary conditions.
Though the municipal authorities have shortlisted 2,202 households for the construction of toilets, it’s a small step given the magnitude of the problem. The condition of the bus stand and railway station exposes the reality of the drive.
There are, however, some initiatives that offer hope. A city-based non-governmental organisation, Let’s Clean Ludhiana, is working to keep the city clean. Also, a few local business houses have adopted bridges on the Sidhwan canal and are funding efforts to restrict people from throwing litter in it.
Trying but need people’s help: MC Commissioner
What steps have been taken to improve sanitation in the past one year?
When I joined, solid waste management was in poor shape. We are focusing on waste collection and transportation. A sanitation campaign is on. The city looks better, if not completely clean. Public participation is important as no programme can succeed without people’s support.
What challenges did you face in implementing the campaign?
Planning and financial crunch were major problems. We have now involved ward councillors, but funding issues remain.
How will you strengthen sanitation in the future?
The plan is to reactivate solid waste transport and processing to make space at the garbage dump in Jamalpur.