ith the August sun blazing, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced last year from the ramparts of the Red Fort that his government’s mission would be to clean India by 2019. On October 2, 2014, Mr. Modi picked up a broom in Central Delhi to officially launch the Swachh Bharat Mission.
A flurry of activity followed — Union Ministers jumped at the opportunity to be photographed sweeping roads, the BJP leadership of the State and municipal bodies wasted no time in joining the effort, and officers in all government agencies felt obliged to mark their attendance through well-publicised sanitation drives.
But, what started with a bang has fizzled out. Delhi’s municipal corporations are run by the BJP, which are accusing the Aam Aadmi Party Government in the State of not releasing funds on time. The Arvind Kejriwal Government has alleged that the civic bodies’ work isn’t up to the mark. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had said if the BJP couldn’t run the corporations, the government would take over. Mr. Sisodia had made the comment back in March, when a strike by sanitation workers of the North and East Delhi corporations had left mounds of trash piled on the roads.
A recent ranking released by the Union Urban Development Ministry revealed areas under the corporations were placed at the 398 place out of 476 cities surveyed for their cleanliness.
North Delhi Municipal Corporation Mayor Ravinder Gupta said the “Delhi Government is to be blamed for the poor show”.
“On one hand they are cutting our funds so we can’t upgrade our sanitation services, and on the other their departments are failing to maintain cleanliness in their areas,” said Mr. Gupta.
All three corporations have been crying foul over the delay in funding from the government, but the North and East civic bodies are in such a dire state that employees haven’t been paid on time for months.
“Despite the financial crunch, we are doing the best we can. Our garbage collection has gone up to 3,100 MT per day since the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan was launched,” said Mr. Gupta.
He added that the lack of resources had held the corporation back as it couldn’t buy new machinery and couldn’t pressure workers to perform better since their salaries were not paid on time.
Though it is slightly better off, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation says it hasn’t been able to boost its services for lack of resources.
“We have made changes, which are visible for all to see, but we need funds for modernising our sanitation services,” said SDMC Mayor Subhash Arya.
Mr. Arya said awareness programmes were launched, new dustbins installed in markets, waste processing units are being set up and the contract for garbage collection by private companies is being strengthened.
“We need more trucks, auto-tippers, and other equipment. But, since the government is not releasing our funds, we haven’t been able to buy them,” said Mr. Arya.
But, the corporation’s collective budget for sanitation in 2015-2016 is Rs.1,836 crore. The amount pales in comparison to the budget for another important national mission — the one to Mars. The Mars orbiter or Mangalyaan cost Rs.450 crore.
So if it’s not money, then what is it? According to officials in the corporations, the lack of coordination, and even acrimony, between the BJP leadership and the State government is to be blamed. A senior officer of the North Corporation said there would be multiple meetings every week to review progress and to coordinate efforts with government agencies when Delhi was under President’s Rule.
“So from October to January, there was a lot of progress made and people could see the city getting cleaner. But, after the elections in February, the meetings have become less frequent and there is a lack of coordination,” said the officer.
The North Delhi Mayor, Mr. Gupta, accused the AAP Government of eyeing the corporations, which will go to the polls in 2017. “They are looking at it with an eye on the municipal elections,” said Mr. Gupta.
A year after it was launched in the Capital with much pomp and show, Swachh Bharat has lost to politics.
after the elections in February, the meetings have become less frequent and there is a lack of coordination