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Making Chandigarh the Cleanest City | Stakeholders come together with ideas on HT initiative

At a round-table session at HT’s SAS Nagar office, key stakeholders came up with a range of ideas to make the city cleaner. Former Union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal called for launching a “total sanitation campaign” with an active involvement of residents, while MC commissioner B Purushartha promised to leave no stone unturned to ensure a cleaner city. Excerpts of the session moderated by Arvind Chhabra.

punjab Updated: May 11, 2017 12:05 IST
HT Team
HT Team
Hindustan Times
Chandigarh,Union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal,total sanitation campaign
HT Round Table conference on sanitation of Chandigarh underway at Hindustan Times office, Mohali on Tuesday.(Anil Dayal/HT Photo)

Did the city failing to make to top 10 in cleanliness survey shock you?

Pawan Kumar Bansal, former Chandigarh MP: This has come as a huge setback to city residents, including myself. The municipal corporation’s immediate reaction putting the entire blame on the residents was avoidable. We can’t expect residents to do things we want them to do. We need to look at this holistically. I don’t blame the MC for it but find something amiss in the system itself. A majority of functions which should be with the civic body are with the administration. Its job has been reduced to raise parking and water taxes etc. For instance, the MC’s agenda is not prepared by the city mayor but the commissioner. Then it’s taken to the mayor who may add a couple of items. I am also responsible for not having brought that system into place. What is required is five-year tenure for mayor. Since we don’t have that, the mayor has no time to prepare a comprehensive plan for the city.

Subhash Chawla, former mayor: People were not really happy even when we got second rank in the survey last time. There is no denying the fact that the overall sanitation in city has deteriorated. When it was formed in 1996, the municipal corporation‘s overall budget was ?80 crore and presently we are spending as much amount on sanitation only. But still we failed to score. We need to learn from cities like Indore, which has done well in terms of sanitation. Our focus is just on the planning aspect and we are neglecting our colonies and villages.

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Maheshinder Singh Sidhu, BJP councillor: The ranking indeed came as a setback to us. We all worked hard to secure the number 1 ranking. When it comes to development and cleanliness, we were on top. If we compare Chandigarh with cities which are among top five in the survey, we are apparently cleaner than them. It was just the citizens’ feedback that brought our score down.

Arun Sood, former mayor and BJP councillor: The figures are self-explanatory. We got 883 out of 900 marks in cleanliness, which is the highest in the country. We are not lagging behind in governance criterion either. We did not fare well when it comes to public assessment. We had asked the residents to download the app and vote. Somewhere people did not feel like coming forward to vote. Chandigarh is cleaner than Indore and Bhopal on any given day.

What actually went wrong?

B Purushartha, MC commissioner: Slipping to eleventh position is a setback that I will not forget easily. It is a classic example of being near, yet so far. It is an emotional issue as it was a yearlong hard labour starting from safai karamcharis to the senior level of administration. We did not do bad but not enough residents participated in the feedback. Whether or not it is our mistake, we need to discuss it with councillors and officials.

(From left) Chandigarh Beopar Mandal chairman Charanjiv Singh, former BJP mayor Arun Sood, ex-MP and Union minister Pawan Bansal, municipal commissioner B Purushartha, BJP councillor Maheshinder Singh Sidhu, former Congress mayor Subhash Chawla, FOSWAC chairman Baljinder Singh Bittu during an HT Round-table conference in SAS Nagar on Tuesday. (Sanjeev Sharma/HT Photo)

Do you think the MC failed in spreading awareness?

Charanjiv Singh, Beopar Mandal chairman: The city slipped in ranking due to low public participation.

Probably we (public representatives) were too busy in the MC elections and could not make the public aware about the drive. From next time, we have to take more initiatives to ensure their maximum participation. It has been noticed that even as dustbins are placed in many markets people tend to litter on roads. Such people should be fined.

Are locals indifferent or authorities should have made extra effort to engage them?

Bansal: The entire exercise by residents has to be facilitated by the authorities. It is a welcome move by the MC to provide free dustbins with two colours to residents. They should lift garbage it regularly but it is not happening.

Maheshinder Sidhu: Something was lacking for sure — be it our approach or the residents’ attitude. The MC put up hoardings and advertised in the radio to spread awareness. The citizens did not participate despite that. There was something lacking on their part.

Baljinder Singh Bittu, FOSWAC chairman: Residents’ participation is a must if we want to keep the city clean. We have told the UT?adviser several times that residents’ welfare associations should be involved to make the city look better. No one is answerable about the functioning of the sanitation staff. There is also shortage of staff and machinery. The sweeper cleans the area and piles up garbage in one place and does not dispose it of properly.

Why do you think the residents didn’t participate?

Baljinder Bittu: A lot of ads were put up asking residents to participate . But they were being asked to rank the city with positive responses only. If one is not satisfied, how can one give good marks.

Do you think Sector 17 is not as clean as it should be?

Charanjiv Singh: Sector 17 is quite clean by and large, but there is a need to strengthen the infrastructure. For instance, there should be adequate dustbins and a check on the duties performed by sweepers.

  • NAVKIRAN SINGH ADV:70% of tertiary water being produced by MC is being drained in sewerage. Why cannot we have green grass in liesure valley sector 10.”
  • REETIKA KHANNA: Waste collection, segregation and management and of course a big and wide awareness around civic sense- radio could be a useful medium. And what to say about enforcement .... ! That’s where all the bucks stop!”
  • RAJAT BHALLA: Take care of the running track at sukhna lake , it’s eroding like the lake water is going low . And yes water the grass.”
  • ADHAVAN JO: Maybe garbage disposal segregation at the level of every house..otherwise looks visibly cleaner than any other place in India.
  • GURJUSJIT SINGH: Need to change the people at helm. They are the dirty lot who don’t wish to make Chandigarh clean.
  • ASHVEER: I would love to see more dustbins, more awareness in schools, and more attention to lesser developed parts of UT not just popular hubs
  • ANJU JUNEJA: Sector 17 needs to be rebuilt from scratch, remove encroachments, stray dogs, cattle, bus queue shelters need to be taken care of”

Why segregation of garbage at source has not happened?

Purushartha: It has not been done in any city of the country. These things have started under the Swachh Bharat mission. Under rule 202, there is provision for segregation and we are trying to do it now. Segregation of garbage should be at source only and we are finding ways to get residents involved in this. Nothing can succeed without their support.

Subhash Chawla, former mayor: When I was mayor, I tried to start segregation, but could not do it as ragpickers went on a strike and political leaders sided with them. Segregation cannot be done unless there is political consensus on it.

Do you think there was lack of effort on the part of MC?

Purushartha: Residents are not satisfied with the current scenario. To create an eco-system, a strong willpower is needed and it has be done by rising above party lines. The people’s mindset also needs to be changed.

Why the garbage processing plant failed in the city?

Purushartha: When the garbage processing plant was set up in 2008, it was seen as a progressive step. But we did not develop it and the system collapsed. Now, we are facing legal issues as right clauses were not inserted in the agreement.

Does the MC need more powers to be effective?

Bansal: Definitely. They should get other things except law and order.

Arun Sood: The MC provides day-to-day services to residents such as water supply, streetlights and removing garbage. The strengthening of local government means more powers to the mayor. The city at times suffers due to a deadlock between the mayor and the commissioner. Kolkata mayor has more discretionary powers.

Maheshinder Sidhu: Yes, I feel there is need to empower the elected representatives. Sometimes, the elected body floats ideas which the MC and administration officials reject.

Are all parties are on the same page for giving MC more powers?

Bansal, Chawla and Sood: Absolutely.

Sood: The problem is that MLAs and MPs don’t want to give more powers to the civic body because they feel disempowered then. (Laughter)

Bansal: That’s right. Extend the mayor’s tenure to five years and they will be more important than the MP. The MC proposes and the administration disposes.

Subhash Chawla: There is need of a long-term policy. There are several reasons, including political ones. The mayor changes every year and the new ones have their own priorities. In 1996, we tried to set up a compost plant, but the then adviser opposed it. We wanted a sehaj safai kendra but people opposed. I differ with the MC commissioner on claims of being free of open defection. But 10,000 people still go out to answer nature’s call as we failed to provide them toilets.

What needs to be done?

Arun Sood: The solution will be segregation of garbage, then processing and recycling it. Replicate the best practice available for safai karamcharis. Proper attendance system needs to be implemented for them.

Bansal: I agree with what Mr Sood on this. Don’t make compost-making the end in itself. Biomechanisation is need of the hour. We need to start a total sanitation drive in the city with locals’ help. Forget about rankings. Chandigarh is much ahead of all other cities. We need systemic changes.

Subhash Chawla: A part from segregation and transportation, monitoring is very important and we are lacking on this count. As far as execution of works is concerned, councillors also tend to interfere, stopping officials from doing their job.

Maheshinder Sidhu: The administration and the MC need to put their act together.

Charanjiv Singh: Shopkeepers should keep their markets clean. Regular meetings should be held with market associations, resident welfare associations and the general public on sanitation and beautification. Baljinder Bittu: A proper system should be put in place to manage wet waste. The model of churning wet waste in the kitchen itself and draining out should followed in some of the countries abroad could be adopted.

What is your (MC’s) future strategy?

Purushartha: In the next House meeting, we will come up with a foolproof plan to handle sanitation. Every resident should pay for garbage collection. Also, we have already decided to impose recovery charges of Rs 5,000 for residential and Rs 10,000 for commercial units for littering.

Bansal: To me indifference means negative feedback only.

Are these ideas practical?

Purushartha: Of course, they are practical and some of them will be implemented after holding discussion with the councillors and officials.

Can we expect a cleaner Chandigarh next year?

Purushartha: I cannot say whether we will rank on the top as it will depend on how other cities perform in the survey. I can assure you we will leave no stone unturned to ensure a cleaner and greener Chandigarh.

Compiled by Arvind Chhabra, Hillary Victor, Monica Sharma, Tanbir DhalIwal and Ifrah Mufti

First Published: May 10, 2017 12:36 IST