The much-publicised drive by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), to penalise local residents for spitting in public places, seems to be slowly losing steam, as the civic administration focuses all its energy on the Swachh Survekshan 2019.
Under the drive, launched in November last year, the civic administration would zero in on those found spitting in public places and fine them Rs 150. While imposing fines for such offences is common, the PMC made headlines when it decided to make the offenders clean the area as well.
Short-term measure or strict drive by PMC?
The PMC had launched the initiative to take action against those dirtying public places, and also to inculcate good habits among local residents, to keep the city clean ahead of Swachh Survekshan. However, the civic administration is currently so busy with cleaning the city for the contest that it has slowed down its action against offenders. This has created the impression that the civic action was only a short-term measure. The PMC has, however, managed to get the necessary publicity for its initiative by showing that it was strict in implementing the solid waste management rules framed by the Union government.
Till date, the PMC has taken action against 1,040 people for spitting in public places and has collected over Rs 1.44 lakh in fines. But the number of offenders penalised over the last three months — 478 in 12 days in November, 413 in December and 149 till January 18 — shows that the drive is losing its momentum.
In fact, PMC records reveal that only four to five persons are being fined under the drive every day for spitting in public places. At the beginning of the drive, officials of the civic body used to catch nearly 40 persons every day.
Dnyaneshwar Molak, in-charge of the PMC’s solid waste management department, said the drive was still on, but the civic body was focussing more on the Swachh survey. “The PMC action against local residents spitting in public place continues, but the focus has now been shifted to the Swachh Survekshan. The civic staff is involved in lot of activities related to the Swachh Survekshan,” he said.
The Swachh Survekshan, a survey under the Union government’s flagship Swachh Bharat Mission, selects the 100 cleanest cities in India. In the 2018 survey, the PMC managed to clinch the 10th rank, three notches higher than its 2017 position (13th), and a rank higher than what it got in 2016 (11th).
Molak said action against those spitting in public places would be intensified after various PMC initiatives, to secure a better rank in Swachh Survekshan, come to an end. “The PMC action has had an impact… people are scared of spitting in public places, but they haven’t stopped doing so completely. It will take more time for residents to change their habits and the PMC would continue to work on it,” he added.
The civic body’s records also show that its action against those dumping waste in the open has remained consistent, with nearly 90 people penalised for doing so every day in the last few months.
Meanwhile, in a bid to improve its ranking, the PMC has warned civic staff that they will face suspension if they failed to participate in the Swachh Survekshan and register their feedback in the online system set up by the central government. An official order, issued by Municipal Commissioner Saurabh Rao, has urged all civic staff to register their feedback in the online system. The order pointed out that the registration of citizens’ feedback plays a major role in the assessment of cleanliness practices in the contest.
The state government has also set the criteria of improving ranking in the Swachh Survekshan as a key responsibility area, or KRA, for all the municipal commissioners in the state.