In 2010, India was ranked 123 out of 183 countries in cleanliness as per a report. The worst condition is that of Delhi, the national capital. Out of 434 cities surveyed across India, the north, east and south municipal corporations of Delhi ranked 279, 202 and 196 in the Swachh Survekshan-2017.
In fact, Delhi’s problem is so dire that even the Delhi High Court has given multiple, strongly-worded warnings and notices to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (north, south and east) for violating court orders in matters related to sanitation. Apart from being a matter of national shame, such unhygienic surroundings are a major health hazard, especially because they serve as breeding grounds for vector-borne diseases like dengue and chikungunya.
If we dissect the major reasons behind this condition in the National Capital Region, one of the oft-quoted responses is the overlap in areas of functioning of multiple government bodies such as MCD, PWD, etc. As a Quora user rightly put it, “Multiple government bodies is another reason for lack of proper infrastructure which leads to filth. For example, it’s the PWD which manages and plans roads, municipality decides where to put garbage bins etc. Running a city is like running a company. You can’t have different teams reporting to different CEOs. PWD reports to CM. Municipality to the mayor.”
Say2Gov, a civic-tech startup, has made an attempt to decipher this complexity by outlining the functions of various local bodies in NCR along with relevant links for a better understanding. The purpose of this analysis is to help citizens be aware of the working of local agencies in their cities as well as decide correctly which complaint goes to which authority.
Another major cause of this state is the disconnect between officials and the real world. As the High Court of Delhi recently put it, “The top officials of the corporations did not appear to have left their offices to inspect the affected areas.” It seems the officials do not step out and even if citizens want to complain about issues in their locality, they do not have a reliable platform to do so.
And surely, nobody has the time to physically visit the local leaders’ office time and again to lodge complaints, owing to their busy schedules. In this regard, the performance of the Swachh Bharat App launched by the central government has been dismal, as reported here. A small analysis of the entire Swachh Bharat Scheme was done by Say2Gov on the occasion of three years of the Modi government, showing its poor performance in areas apart from publicity and marketing.
In today’s times of a wide internet reach, an unconventional yet interesting way of curbing the cleanliness menace has emerged, that is, by encouraging the common people to join hands and bring about change. This can be done by highlighting bright spots in front of citizens – by sharing positive stories of spot-fixing, government initiatives that lead to better sanitation, etc. A couple of social media handles such as The Ugly Indian and Swachh Bharat are garnering a good response doing it. The Ugly Indian on Facebook shares stories of how Bengaluru citizens team up and ‘fix’ local issues by cleaning up, repainting dirty areas. Swachh Bharat on Twitter is an unofficial app that tweeples can use to report cleanliness issues with social handles of the government or they can share success stories.
As disappointing as it may sound, even after 70 years of independence, India and its national capital are yet to see a proper-functioning sanitation system implemented by the government or administrative officials. Well-meaning citizens are left in a confusion. They want to live in clean surroundings but don’t know how to contribute.
Sanitation is a basic human right but at the same time, ensuring it is our responsibility. Look for options to lend a hand in a cleanliness drive, don’t ignore heaps of dirt lying around your homes and workplaces, complain to authorities in whatever way you can. The only way forward is for citizens to join hands to bring about a change themselves and push the authorities for change.
Another version of this article was published here.