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HomeColumnUrban areas need Swachh Bharat 2.0: Putting more accountability on civic bodies

Urban areas need Swachh Bharat 2.0: Putting more accountability on civic bodies

The campaign has already made a splash on social media. Now, instead of indulging in more of photo-shoots, and spending thousands of crores on social media marketing campaigns, the government should allot additional funds to local bodies for hiring new cleaners to clean the roads.

Swachh Bharat Mission is one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most successful and stupendous initiatives. It aims at creating awareness about cleanliness and discipline among the citizens. Even Bollywood celebrities and politicians from opposition parties came out in large numbers to support the Prime Minister’s noble cause.

The drive aims at making India open-defecation free before October 2, 2019. Besides cleaning up India’s streets as well as roads, thousands of household and community toilets have been constructed in rural areas. The short-term success or long-term outcome, as well as the parameters used for auditing the same, are often questioned. However, even Modi’s worst critics have agreed that the mission has changed the citizens’ behavior and perception towards cleanliness.

 

“Time for Swachh Bharat 2.0 in urban areas”

Back in January 2015, V Kalyanam, who worked as Mahatma Gandhi’s personal secretary, appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat initiative. The Gandhian criticized the Congress for failing to do so during its rule. However, he also highlighted the point that clean India campaign’s success in the later stage would depend on how the Prime Minister uses his power to make the people in administration work.

His letter and the points mentioned do make sense. Today, India has Municipal Corporations, Zilla Parishads, Gram Panchayats and other local bodies throughout the country. They have tax, non-tax revenue and receive funds from the state as well as the center under various schemes. Most importantly, their performance is rated by private rating agencies as well as the central and state Urban Development Ministry. Ratings suggest that some of India’s Municipal Corporations use their resources efficiently, and are self-reliant.

There are thousands of sweepers employed by civic bodies to clean streets and collect waste every morning. Sweepers mostly work in early morning shifts and are assigned areas to be cleaned on a daily basis.  Some civic bodies in rural areas do face a shortage of workforce and funds. So, urging citizens in such areas to clean streets and public places in the town in exchange for property tax cuts may prove logical.  However, in metro cities as well as Tier 1, Tier 2 cities, there are top-ranked civic bodies that have a sufficient number of highly-paid road sweepers for the cleaning job. Some of them have appointed cleaners for brushing road-dividers as well.

Now, why is it that citizens have to take a broom in their hands and clean roads, footpaths, road-dividers even when there are paying local body taxes, property taxes to the administration? No matter if it’s the city’s mayor, Lok Sabha MP, MLAs, or the civic chief; everyone ends up blaming the city’s population for dirt on roads and footpaths.

Due to a few individuals who do not have respect for discipline and cleanliness, the highly paid IAS baboos, as well as politicians, start portraying as if every Indian lacks a sense of discipline.  They forget that it is municipality, panchayat, and corporation’s primary responsibility to keep the city clean in exchange for direct and indirect taxes that they are collecting from citizens.

 

“Rampant corruption in civic bodies”

Besides paying various taxes to the civic body in their city, Indians pay multiple types of cess collected for environmental initiatives.  Plus, on an average, people also need to pay Rs. 5 (per usage) for using a washroom at public places, including gardens and bus-stops. Above this, since the last five years, inhabitants of certain cities (except for slum areas) are also forced to shell out Rs. 100 per month (per house) as an additional charge for garbage collection by firms appointed by the civic bodies for waste management.  There is no other option available for residents as public garbage bins have been removed in cities where the municipal authorities have appointed agencies for door-to-door garbage collection.

Citizens are often asked to click pictures of potholes, hips of solid waste, open drainage covers, etc. and tweet the same or send it to the authorities via various apps. Now if the common man is expected to perform these additional duties in the name of patriotism, why are civic officials appointed and paid for? Of course, people involved in littering and dumping garbage on the road should be penalized. But at the same time, municipal cleaners who fail to perform their duties need to be dealt with very strictly. The state and center should straightaway dissolve all the municipal corporations that fail in something as fundamental as dealing with garbage and sewage water management. It’s surprising to see that the Urban Development Ministry has given top ratings to municipal corporations like Pune and PCMC that are unable even to operate their sewage treatment plants and are pulled up several times by the NGT for releasing sewage water into the river without treating.  The Pune Municipal Corporation is facing several cases (related to garbage mismanagement) in the Mumbai High Court. (By the way, Pune happens to be the most livable one in India according to Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs). Some of the prominent cities with rich Municipal Corporations do not even have their own plastic recycling plants. Garbage is simply dumped and burnt.

 

“Bureaucrats need to be made accountable”  

Back in 2012, an extensive study conducted by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (Hong Kong) proved that India’s bureaucracy is worst in Asia. Transparency International’s recent research also rated India as Asia’s most corrupt nation.

Nothing much has changed even during the Modi rule when it comes to corruption in the government machinery. The recent news about the arrest of GST commissioners on corruption charges in various cities certifies the same.

British left India back in 1947. But most of the civil servants still behave as if they work for the Queen and citizens are slaves meant to beg in front of them continually.

Sacking incompetent and corrupt civil servants as well as government employees is extremely difficult in India. Such employees can only be transferred from one department to the other and that too, after conducting a lengthy inquiry.

As pointed out by several experts, our constitution’s Part 14 needs amendments to make sure that corrupt, civil servants can be made accountable. So do certain sections from the acts like Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporation Act which is used for governing municipal corporations. In Urban areas, Mayor, elected corporators need to be delegated with more rights to get the work done from the administration.

May it be the civic bodies, railways, or any other department, it’s high time, the government must stop blaming citizens for every problem. In spite of paying so much money, inhabitants in most of the cities end up being blamed for not maintaining cleanliness in their town.

The highly paid administrative officials must be made accountable for work allotted to them.  Once this happens, Swachh Bharat 2.0 would begin. It is time for PM Modi to launch Swachh Bharat 2.0 and make the employees, who have to clean, do it. Instead of spending thousands of crores on social media marketing campaigns, the government should allot additional funds to local bodies for hiring new cleaners to clean the roads if required.

By Nitten Gokhaley


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of AFTERNOON VOICE and AFTERNOON VOICE does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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