Year on, Chandigarh’s Swachh switch fails to click

  • Hillary Victor, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Oct 02, 2015 09:28 IST

A year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet scheme Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched with a lot of fanfare, much remains to be achieved in the City Beautiful.

The high-ups in the UT administration and municipal corporation (MC) wasted not a minute in posing with brooms at public places, but when it came to meeting objectives of the mission, they showed no such swiftness or eagerness. Now, they are putting the blame on the Centre for not releasing the stipulated grant of Rs 135 crore.

What’s worse is the fact that from being on the top in terms of sanitation till a few years back, the city has slipped to the 21st place among 476 cities in the Swachh Bharat rankings, the data of which was released in August this year by the Union ministry of urban development.

Residents say that cleanliness drives conducted in various sectors and colonies were mere eyewash, intended to get some positive coverage in the media. A reality check conducted by the Hindustan Times found that most public places -- be it Sector 17, bus stand or Rock Garden – things have hardly changed. In the absence of proper machinery and active participation of citizens, the situation is worsening. One of the main objectives of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was elimination of open defecation, but not a single toilet has been constructed to date. The MC has not even appointed an ambassador for the mission yet.

3,500 persons defecate in the open: Survey

In August this year, teams comprising the staff of medical officer of health, public health department, engineering department and the NGO Ek Umeed, during a survey, found that 3,500 people defecate in the open in the city. The most-affected areas are Sectors 52 and 61, Faidan village and along the railway track in the Industrial Area, Phase I, and Colony No. 4 besides Bapu Dham Colony and some villages.

Public toilets a major inconvenience

The municipal corporation (MC) has been unable to maintain 200 public toilets at various markets in the city. After failing to hand over the toilets to market welfare associations for a year, the civic body decided to shoulder the responsibility in May this year. Now, however, the authorities plan to renovate the toilets, for which tenders have been floated.

Of the 200 public toilets, 80% are unmanned, while some are non-functional. During a visit to Sectors 18, 19, 34, 35, 36 and 37, most public toilets were found in a mess, with leaking faucets and poor water supply. Some toilets have been occupied by rickshawpullers and labourers.

Also, after spending Rs 1.1 crore on the construction of 18 hi-tech toilet blocks in various green belts two years back, the civic body has not opened these to date.

In March this year, it was decided that the toilets would be handed over to residents’ welfare associations, but the MC has not taken any step in this direction. Even after being pulled up by the UT adviser for poor maintenance and for keeping the toilet blocks locked, MC officials have not budged.

MC fails to recruit sanitation workers

Although the UT administration allowed the MC to fill 319 posts of sanitation worker in 2013, nothing has been done so far. The civic body received around 14,000 applications, which were to be scrutinised by the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology, Sector 17. At present, the city is short of 1,328 sanitation workers.

Garbage collection in tatters

To tackle the problem of garbage collection, owing to shortage of both manpower and equipment, UT adviser Vijay Dev in January this year told the MC to prepare an action plan on the garbage collection system besides acting on complaints received on WhatsApp to catch erring staff. However, at a time when the amount of garbage collected should have increased — considering the increase in population — the figures recorded at the Dadu Majra plant have dropped from 300 tonne a day to less than 230 tonne since last year.

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