A year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat drive in the heart of the capital, the campaign seems to have taken a backseat. One only needs to look at the white colonial walls of Connaught Place, splattered with red betel stains, to know that the drive seems to be forgotten in the city’s most well-known landmark.
Officials of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), under whose jurisdiction the British-era colonnaded structure falls, expressed their helplessness in curbing the menace. According to officials, an anti-spitting drive had been launched in November last year, flagged off by BJP MP and NDMC member Meenakshi Lekhi.
“It was a part of the Swachh Bharat drive. Under this, it was decided that those caught spitting will have to pay a fine of up to Rs 100. The council had planned to put in place a team of marshals for this purpose. The initiative, however, does not seem to have been effective,” said a senior NDMC official.
Officials said another reason for the failure of the project was the inability of marshals to control such activities.
“It is not practical for a team of marshals to bring the situation under control. The council can only employ a certain number of such marshals. With the huge number of people visiting markets like Connaught Place, it is not possible to keep a check on spitting,” said the official.
Council members said the NDMC can only issue challans as it does not have the authority to fine people.
“Only a few challans have been issued by the NDMC so far for spitting. Challans cannot serve as an effective way of catching offenders. The person has to be caught during the act; his identity needs to be verified in court and his offense has to be proven. We can fine on the spot only if the high court gives us the power to do so,” said the official.
Underlining the need to bring about a change in people’s mindset, Lekhi told The Indian Express awareness campaigns are needed to raise hygiene standards in public places.
“It is all about attitude. No amount of fines or challans can change it. We need to launch more drives to encouraging them to keep public places clean,” said Lekhi.
Meanwhile, members of the Connaught Place Traders Association alleged that the presence of hundreds of hawkers and street vendors was leading to unhygienic conditions in the area. “Street vendors without licences are setting up shops. Besides lowering hygiene standards, this has restricted space for pedestrians to walk. The entire market has been cluttered by hawkers selling food and tobacco,” said a member of the association.