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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

‘Street dwellers a hurdle in improving city’s Swachh rank’

mumbai Updated: Dec 03, 2019 00:35 IST
Shrinivas Deshpande
Shrinivas Deshpande

After Mumbai slipped to the 49th position in the Swachh Survekshan rankings from 18th in 2018, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is working to improve the city’s rankings in the next year’s survey, which will begin in two months. However, the BMC is struggling to tackle the issue of street dwellers.

According to civic officials, even after relocating the dwellers in shelter houses, they return to these spots. Many such pavements in the city are home to thousands of people. They erect shanties on the footpath where they cook, bath, defecate and dump garbage every day.

Kiran Dighavkar, nodal officer of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan said, “Street dwellers are one of the major hurdles in improving the city’s rank in the Swachh Survekshan. We are working on this issue through frequent campaigns against footpath dwellers but, they often return after a few days. So we are working on some permanent solution.”

According to civic officials keeping roads as well as footpaths clean is one of the main criteria in Swachh Survekshan.

Citizen activist Nikhil Desai, however, alleged that civic officials are making excuses. “If the BMC officials and police seriously want to remove them [street dwellers], they can easily do it. However, when politicians and their vote bank comes into the picture, then it becomes only a matter of money,’’ said Desai.

Desai said that civic officials can attract punishment if street dwellers crop up in their jurisdiction. “Why do civic officials then turn a blind eye when these dwellers are erecting these shanties?” said Desai.

Sachin Shinde, 28, a construction labourer, told HT that the footpath has been a home for him and his family since the last few years.

“There is a public toilet in our area that charges ₹5 to use the toilet and ₹25 for the bathroom. I have eight family members and considering our daily income, we cannot afford it,’’ said Shinde.

As a result, Shinde said, his family does not have an option but to use the road to meet their daily demands. Shinde and his family are from Osmanabad district.