Swachh Bharat – ‘Stakeholders Must Unite’
It has been about three years since I founded my NGO, named Parivartan in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh. While we work towards the betterment of society in all aspects, the two projects closest to our hearts are mobile schools and sustainable living. We have also been focusing on enhancing cleanliness of rivers (Ganga and Ram Ganga) and waste management. In many ways, Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is akin to our efforts.
I have travelled to a lot of remote places to judge the ground reality of our projects. And I see a large number of toilets being constructed in the rural pockets too. However, the quality of the construction under the Swachh Bharat leaves much to be desired. See, a grant of ₹12,000 is given to a beneficiary to get a toilet constructed – of this half the money is paid in advance for purchasing raw materials and the rest after completion of the structure.
As it happens in such social projects, people have devised ‘jugaad’ to bypass the set norms. In many cases, village heads were found providing raw materials to get a toilet constructed. Mostly, the quality of this raw materials is dubious. The original suppliers and the pradhan divide the booty. A set commission of ₹2,000/- is left for the pradhan as he stamps his approval for the built structure. It also means people keep getting toilets built or repaired at regular intervals when the government’s aim is to give them a good quality structure, once and for all.
While toilet construction might still be called a partial success, the waste management aspect on the streets and in homes in Moradabad under Swachh Bharat is a complete non-starter. People simply do not take up cleanliness seriously, leave about segregating the waste.
Perhaps the people who take the drive most seriously are the rag-pickers. Despite this being Prime Minister Narendra Modi pet project, few people in administration understand or value the segregation of waste. The government machinery should not just tell people what to do, they must also show people ‘how to do it’. The whole community needs to homogenise the waste management chain.
The one field where there has been some seriousness on the part of government is the cleansing of natural resources. The Namami Gange project, for example, has been given considerable importance and attention, although the tributaries aren’t given as much importance and are still dirty.
Ghats have become reasonably cleaner. But where the administration is caught napping is the unauthorized real estate development and encroachment on the ghats. Some time back our NGO conducted a cycle yatra to raise awareness about the cleanliness of Ganga and Ram Ganga. We cycled across nine districts and interacted with a lot of people who lived close to the two rivers.
One of our proudest moments was organizing a cleanliness campaign for the whole duration of the very popular Navratri mela held every year in Moradabad. The authorities as well as citizens contributed wholeheartedly towards keeping the area marked for the mela clean. So, if all the stakeholders can be brought together the results can be fascinating. And this gives me a lot of hope.