BMC is wrong, Mumbai is not open-defecation free, says Maharashtra government
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Maharashtra government is at loggerheads with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) over the civic body’s claim that Mumbai became open-defecation free under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat mission.
Even as the BMC certified that the city is open-defecation free, and got a Union government-affiliated agency — the quality council of India (QCI) — to back its claim, the state government was hesitant to validate its assertion.
“Our validation team surveyed each ward in the city, and except for a handful, there were incidents of open defecation in several pockets. If we certify that the city open-defecation free, despite knowing that there are people defecating in the open, it will hurt the project’s credibility,” said an official from the state government, who did not wish to be identified.
The state’s validation team comprised officials and bureaucrats from across municipal corporations in Maharashtra, as well as non-government organisations. The team conducted its survey in January, which was when the BMC approached the QCI.
The BMC declared that Mumbai was open-defecation free in December last year. However, it said it would not take responsibility for people defecating on lands owned by other government agencies such as the railways, Mumbai Port Trust, defense land, and Aarey Colony in Goregaon.
Maharashtra has a three-tier verification process to decide whether a town is open-defecation free. First, the urban local body inspects the city, followed by an audit conducted by the collector, and finally, the state. The cities and towns then approach the Union government, seeking a certification declaring them as open-defecation free under the Swachh Bharat mission.
“The QCI team found a few shortcomings during its first inspection. We filled these gaps and asked them for a re-assessment. After the re-assessment, the agency was satisfied that the BMC had made every effort possible to rid Mumbai of open defecation and to build toilets. It was confident that the city could be declared open-defecation free,” a BMC official, who did not wish to be identified.
“I wish state government officials would read the rules,” said BMC commissioner Ajoy Mehta.He said the Union government has well laid out guidelines for any city to be declared open-defecation free. These involve identifying spots where people usually defecate, providing adequate toilets and creating a mechanism to prevent open defecation by warning and fining those who engage in this activity.
“The BMC spent the whole of last year building toilets. We even provided temporary toilets to residents while permanent ones were being built. Clean-up marshals were engaged to warn those defecating in the open,” Mehta said. Celebrities such as Salman Khan were engaged to create awareness about the issue.
“Despite all this, there are still some people who defecate in the open. The Union government understands this,” he said.He added that the Union government also has a provision to follow up on the matter after six months.
The state, however, maintains that simply building enough toilets does not qualify a city as free of open defecation. It states that the actual number of instances of open defecation should be zero for Mumbai to qualify.
Chandigarh Chandigarh administrator Banwarilal Purohit on Wednesday gave in-principle approval for a synthetic running track at Sukhna Lake. UT adviser Dharam Pal, said, “The Chandigarh Heritage Conservation Committee had earlier given its go-ahead for the proposal. Next, the detailed plan and cost estimates will be prepared; and then, tenders will be floated for the project.” A UT official said the proposed track is part of the administration's efforts to give Sukhna Lake a major facelift.
The National Highway Authority of India has approved two over-bridges, which are likely to reduce travel time between Kalka and Zirakpur and alleviate traffic jams on the stretch by next year. NHAI has already floated tenders for the 60-m wide over-bridges, which will be constructed at a cost of ₹50 crore. It has invited bids for the “construction and site improvement of the four-lane national highway (NH-22) on the Zirakpur-Parwanoo junction.”
Fifteen students had a narrow escape after their school bus skidded into a waterlogged open drain in Daulat Singhwala village in Phabat area of Zirakpur. The bus, which was ferrying students of Blue Bird High School, Sector 16, Panchkula, was making way for another school bus when it skidded into the overflowing drain. The bus tilted in the drain, but passersby and parents were able to rescue the children through the driver's window.
Tricity residents woke up to heavy rainfall for the second time this month on Wednesday. Three people went missing after a taxi, shuttling two commuters, was swept away in a flashflood in the Patiala-Ki-Rao rivulet as the driver attempted to cross the causeway in Tanda Village near Nayagaon. The owner of the vehicle, Rakesh Kumar told the police that Gaurav had called him saying two people, travelling to Baddi, had booked his cab.
Chandigarh received 97mm rainfall between 6am and 8.30am, the heaviest rain in July since 2017, as per the India Meteorological Department. It received another 0.9mm of rainfall during the day. The maximum precipitation till 8.30am was recorded at the Sector 39 observatory (97mm), 49.2mm rain was recorded at the airport observatory, 77.5mm rain in Panchkula and 74.5 mm rain in Mohali.