Nagpur: “There is no quick fix for garbage disposal and recycling process; there are many who make tall claims and promises and then just disappear. Therefore the Central and the State Governments are going to come out with a Manual with instructions and wherewithal on garbage issues – only technologies mentioned in the manual will be adopted.” The Maharashtra CM, Devendra Fadnavis said this while speaking at the concluding meet of a day long seminar organized for Civic officials and Mayors of various taluka towns of Nagpur district where a collective pledge was taken to make Nagpur district “haganmukta” ( free of people defecating in the open) and the streets free of garbage.
This was not just a simple pledge. It was called “Swachcha Maharashtra Abhiyan – Saptapadi swachchtechi”. Which literally means taking the seven wows one takes when getting married according to Hindu rites where one walks ‘seven steps’ – saptapadi -with one’s life partner, taking a pledge at every step. In other words, Marital vows. Only difference being, here you are making the pledge to your town/ village and the people living in it, rather than to another person.
The venue was Chitnavis Centre in Nagpur and it was full of Mayors, and elected and selected heads of local government. By selected one means Collectors and bureaucrats and elected are the political Civic chiefs – ‘Nagaradhakshya’ as we call them in local lingo.There was a bank of cameras shooting people taking oaths – only thing missing were floral decorations and strains of a Sanai, one hears at weddings!
IAS officer Manisha Mhaiskar, Secretary Urban development chaired the conference with Ms. Lochan Director and Commissioner, Municipal Administration, also present. Energy Minister and Nagpur guardian Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule and CM were the dignitaries on the dais.
Each Civic chief/ Mayor was first asked to make the pledge, state her plans and targets in two minutes while addressing the ‘manch’. Among the eleven who did so, nine were women and just two men.
Almost all of them admitted that 50% to 60% people of their towns do not have toilets and the Government has to encourage them and also finance them to build these to fulfill the first objective of making each village and town ‘hygienic’. At present the Central Government is offering Rs.4000/ matched by Rs. 8,000 by state government towards cost of construction of a toilet. The CM admitted that this sum was not enough for the purpose and they were requesting the Central government to increase their share to 10,000/ After this, if there was still a lacuna, it would be fulfilled by the local administration.
The second issue was having town garbage collected, segregated and disposed or recycled in such a way that it would not cause environmental pollution or contamination.
Tall orders both as one still sees not just small town roads but even Nagpur streets strewn with plastic and garbage which is often not collected regularly.
Speaking about this, Nagpur Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar said that instead of advising people to go on cleanliness drives, he and his entire team including Mayor Datke had spent a week personally cleaning shores and street side of Ambazari lake. To their horror, they collected 1,800 tons of dirt and garbage! He conceded that as of now only 20% of garbage and 50% of waste water is being treated.
While all the women Mayors took the pledge as expected on of the two men Mayors spoke up and disclosed his town’s problems and his frustration as elected head. He hails from Tumsar which he said had a tremendous water problem.
He wanted the CM to make a pledge in return that Tumsar’s water woes would be solved.
He also spoke up saying ” you are exhorting us to keep our towns clean; you are taking us on tours of Goa and showing us example of how Panaji treats its waste… but how can we do anything if we do not enjoy any power? Even to purchase a waste bin we have to take permission of the Collector!”
This point of politicians vs. administrators was touched upon by the CM too, though humorously. He said while he, his Ministers and various Mayors had ‘temporary’ five year jobs and could be thrown out thereafter ( if they did not perform) all that the bureaucrats had to fear was a transfer every three years at the most.
He therefore exhorted all the elected leaders to make the Swachchata Abhiyan a success with co operation of local populace so they would get elected by the people time and again!
The CM spoke aloud his candid thoughts in his speech that pointed out some stark realities of urban life in India and Maharashtra.
“What is the point of having high rise apartment complex’ , dazzling malls and multiplex’ if you have half the city’s population living in dirty and unhygienic slums without basic amenities?” He asked.
Truly spoken Mr. Chief Minister.
Also, look at ground realities… while the Mayor of Wardha was outlining the grand plans she has unleashed for Wardha about ‘ghantaghars’ ( Vans) collecting garbage at every road side in her town, some residents of Wardha I spoke to rubbished all such claims and said ‘Wardha and its roads are as dirty as before, may be more so’. Plastic bags were banned for a while but they are back in full force and ready to clog the nallahs of Wardha as soon as rains come.”
NT mentioned Wardha particularly here since the Cleanliness Drive now has Mahatma Gandhi as a mascot and the deadline for various campaigns is 2nd October – 2016 or latest 2017.