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Change Is Possible

Change Is Possible

NDTV news on 25th February published an interesting article based on the latest book of Raghuram Rajan, “The Third Pillar: How the Market and the State Leave the Community Behind”. The title of the article is “ Cleaning Up Indore - An Excerpt From Raghuram Rajan's New Book”. The article briefly describes how Indore, the commercial capital Madhya Pradesh, is transformed into the cleanest city of India. Indore was ranked the cleanest city in India in 2017 and 2018 in a row.

When I came to stay in Indore in July 2014, Indore was not different from many other cities of India in terms of sanitation and cleanliness. I could see everywhere the garbage bins overflowing and the animals roaming freely, eating the garbage and adding their excrement to the mix. People had no problem to defecate or urinate in the open. Mahalakshmi Nagar where I am staying had a large waste dumping area littered with plastic bags. Public toilets, except the Sulabh shauchalayas at selected places, were practically absent. As in any other North Indian city, interiors of most of the government buildings were marked by the stains of paan.  

Today anyone who comes to India is surprised to see roads without dust, public toilets everywhere with the facility for keeping them clean, arrangement for picking up garbage from houses and commercial establishments every day, clean roads and public places without litter and the sanitation staff of Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) always on their toes to do their duties. In fact, one wonders how this can happen in India. The transformation that has happened to Indore city is something unbelievable. When I visited Germany in 1997 I had noticed children after eating sweets putting the rappers in their pockets and later depositing in the nearby garbage bin. Today the Indorians have acquired the same habit. They don’t throw any waste materials on the road or in public places. Indore proclaims to the world, “where there is a will there is a way”.

What is the secret behind the success of Indore? A proactive and determined municipal administration and the generously cooperating residents are behind the success of Indore. Raghuram Rajan has given the credit to two individuals: Malini Gaud, the Mayor and Maneesh Singh, the Municipal Commissioner and the NGO Basix for the transformation that has taken place in Indore. At the same time the cooperation and support of the public cannot be forgotten. The administration could motivate the public through “a policy of carrot and stick”. The IMC has adopted a strategy consisting of seven steps.

Door to door waste collection is the most important of all the steps. The experiment was introduced first in two municipal wards. As it was found successful, the experiment was extended to 10 wards and later to all 85 wards, covering a population of 27 lakhs. Segregation of waste into wet and dry was introduced only at a later stage when it had become a habit for the people to hand over the waste to the municipal sanitation staff when they came with the vehicle every day.   The IMC imposes a fine ranging from Rs. 50/- to 500/- on persons and commercial establishments that flout the law.

Around 600 garbage collections vans are involved in door to door collection of waste. The residents come to know about the arrival of the waste collection van from the melodious songs played by these vehicles.   The IMC collects Rs. 60/- per month from each household as waste collection tax along with the property tax in order to make the people understand that safe disposal of waste is their responsibility.

“Garbage to Compost” is another method devised by the administration. The administration encourages individual households, commercial establishments and institutions, including hotels to convert the wet waste into compost. More than 700 compost making units are working at gardens, schools and others places across Indore. In Lokmanya Nagar colony about 750 families are making use of terracotta pots to convert wet waste into compost. They hand over the dry waste to the municipal staff only once in two weeks.  The IMC also offers 5 to 10 percent discount on property tax to those who install bulk waste converters to compost organic waste. Many hotels make use of this opportunity. In order to encourage innovative models of waste disposal, competitions are conducted by the Indore Municipal Corporation among the hotels, hospitals, schools and other institutions.

Polythene has become a menace in most of the cities and towns of India. Many Indian cities and towns have banned the use of polythene. Indorians, including the shopkeepers, have started using polythene bags of permissible thickness. Many are totally avoiding the use of polythene.

Many people who have their own vehicle have started the practice of carrying a small dust bin in their vehicle in order to avoid littering the public places and roads. Spitting on the roads and public places even by those who chew paan and gutka is very much reduced.

Children are made ambassadors of cleanliness. Teachers and parents motivate children to adopt best practices of waste disposal. Often children remind the elders when they try to litter roads and public places.

In many Indian cities and towns a lot of waste is piled up after functions like public rallies, marriages and other festivities.   Paper plates with food particles are thrown in public places. The Indorians have changed this habit. Those who organize functions take the responsibility of disposing the waste safely.

It is reported that in some marriages in Indore an eighth pledge of cleanliness is added to the seven traditional pledges in marriage ceremonies. Traditional Indian weddings are solemnised with seven pledges - one each corresponding to every round of the sacred fire during the ceremony. Thus cleanliness has become an essential dimension of cultural and religious practices. Such practices will naturally endure for a long time.

Night cleaning of streets is another speciality in Indore. Earlier, municipal workers used to do all the street cleaning only in morning. But the corporation changed this system. Workers are employed for collecting garbage from shops in the evening and cleaning the markets is done at night. In order to reduce dust the important roads are washed in the night using machines. As a result in Indore one can see dust free roads.

Cleanliness in Indore is an excellent example for good governance. Good governance first and foremost requires the political will to implement the laws without fear or favour. The Mayor and the Municipal Commissioner implement the laws regarding cleanliness strictly by adopting a policy of punishing the law breakers and encouraging the law abiders. Secondly, facilities like public toilets with the provision for regular cleaning, door to door collection of waste without fail and sufficient number of municipal staff for cleaning the public places, enough vehicles to carry waste etc. are made available. Thirdly, vigorous efforts are made to motivate the public and the public are taken into confidence in the great task keeping a city of 27 lakhs people neat and clean. If this approach is adopted in different areas of governance the lives of the people of India can be transformed.


(Published on 04th March 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 10)