HT Clean My Chandigarh Campaign | Mandis in a mess
Though ranked the cleanest city in the north India by Swachh Survekshan-2017, the City Beautiful has an ugly underbelly. Its grubby grain, fruit and vegetable markets scored a measly 39 marks, much below other grain markets in the north like that of Kullu, which was declared the cleanest with 60 marks.
The Hindustan Times did a reality check of the Chandigarh’s fruit and vegetable market in Sector 26 and found it in a shabby state with heaps of filth piled all over.
The sites of the weekly apni mandis also continue to be in a messy state. No one cares to clean up the sites after the weekly mandis get over. The less said the better about the meat market in Sector 21. The nauseating stench coupled with flies and stray dogs make it visitor’s nightmare.
Though the authorities claim the market is cleaned twice a day, the grain and fruit market in Sector 26 is dotted with garbage. Built up over a sprawling 26 acres in the 1950s, the market is structured in the form of large sheds and shops, both big and small. But encroachment by shopkeepers and vendors alike have eaten into the open corridors, making the market a chaotic affair. Add to it the practice of dumping the waste on the spot and you have a market lined with rotting vegetables and slush.
The garbage bins are almost always overflowing and even the space outside the shops is littered with leftovers. Even though the UT administration claims to have been organising special cleanliness drives to keep the area clean, the market doesn’t show signs of such initiatives. A little rain is enough to turn it into a pool of slush impossible to navigate on foot.
Rajendra Kumar, secretary of the Market Committee Chandigarh, claims the market is cleaned up twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. “Besides the MC sweepers, we have also deployed a private contractor.”
Kumar blames the shabby state of the market on overcrowding. “One showroom has been partitioned into several shops.” Every day, the market sees around 150 trucks carrying wet and dry supplies. Traders grouse that the loading and unloading adds to the litter. The secretary rues that they do not have the powers to penalise the litter bugs. “There are not as many bins as the number of shops, which also make people dump the leftovers out in the open,” grumbles Kumar.
The farmers’ market or apni mandis are local fruit and vegetable markets introduced by the UT administration in collaboration with the Punjab Mandi Board and MC to help the locals get fresh produce straight from the farmers. The all-day market is held at various spots in the city once a week, and is quite a hit with the locals.
But of late, the mandis have begun to leave behind a trail of garbage. For one, they seem to follow a separate set of rules with no check on the use of polybags, which are banned in Chandigarh. Though as many as 400 stalls are set up at the makeshift mandis arranged on vacant grounds, there is no attempt by the apni mandi committees to arrange for bins.
When the mandis started operating in 1996, farmers used to set up stalls at the designated spots. After the MC took over, it started registration of farmers and vendors between Rs 25 and Rs 60. The Punjab Mandi Board fixes the rates of vegetables at the mandis that function from 10am to 9pm at different spots on rotation. A part of this mandi is used by the MC for setting up a day market by vendors. The Chandigarh Market Committee also hosts seven apni mandis.
More than 6,000 people visit these mandis. A day after the apni mandi, there is an unbearable stench in the area due to piles of garbage strewn all around. The MC functionaries say the market committee in charge is supposed to get the area cleared by next morning. They hire private contractors to get the mess cleared. The Punjab Mandi Board staff, however, claim that the MC fails to get the area cleaned up and leaves the cleaning to the mandi board.
The Secretary, Apni Mandi, Chandigarh, Aslam Mohammed, who represents the Punjab Mandi Board says, “One contractor has been hired to get the area cleaned by 10 am next morning. A supervisor of the mandi board goes to check the ground. We find it unclean at least three to four times a month. The contractor is then penalised and issued a notice.”
STENCH OF MEAT
You can smell the Sector 21 meat market even before you see it. Though planned as a modern, air-conditioned and hygienic market for meat, it is a stinky place with dogs, flies and slush making a visit a suffocating experience. The market consists of 18 shops peddling chicken, fish, mutton and pork. Lack of cleanliness is the bane of this market which sees around 400 visitors every day.
The shopkeepers blame the stench and filth on the inadequate number of safai workers deployed in the area. Regulars also feel the same. Gurvinder Kaur, a resident of Sector 21, said whenever she visits the market, she is forced to cover her face. “The market is so unclean, it doesn’t seem it has any regular sweepers.”
Another resident Baljeet Jhajj underlined the importance of keeping the market clean to avoid an outbreak of disease.
NO ONE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS MESS?
Officials played the blame game over cleanliness in the meat market. Medical Officer of Health Dr P S Bhatti under whose jurisdiction this area falls, when contacted, said “I am not responsible for the meat market cleanliness. The Joint Commissioner, Manoj Khatri, will know better.” But Khatri said, “We are responsible for cleaning the sectors and the market areas from outside. The garbage from meat market is sent to a bio-methination plant. Inside the market, the shopkeepers are responsible for its hygiene.” A shopkeeper in the market said, “We get the market cleaned on our own, and have hired safai karamacharis for this purpose. We seldom see any MC employee here.”.