On Wednesday, the union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs declared Indore as the cleanest among 4,203 urban local bodies (ULBs) in the country in the Swachh Survekshan 2018 carried out earlier this year. This is the second time in a row that Indore — the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh, venue for the state government’s investment summits, and the constituency of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan — has been crowned India’s ‘cleanest city’.
Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal is second, the same position it occupied in the 2017 survey. What did Indore do to defeat 433 other cities to win its maiden ‘cleanest city’ tag a year ago?
“Swachhta aadat hai, swachhta utsav hai”, goes a line from a series of three songs sung by Shaan for the Indore Municipal Corporation’s cleanliness campaign. The songs play as municipal vehicles go about collecting garbage from households, and they are the caller tune of phones of municipal officials and elected representatives.
The campaign claims to have achieved 100% segregation of wet and dry garbage at source. Hundreds of vehicles collect the waste, which is sent to the transportation hub, and from there to the trenching ground. Waste is collected once a day from residential areas and twice from commercial areas. Safai workers clean the streets at night, including those at Sarafa, the city’s famous night food market.
The IMC has nearly 10,000 employees and officers. Mayor Malini Gaud credits the turnaround as much to these employees as to the participation of people in the campaign. She has held about 400 meetings of citizens, and has administered the oath of cleanliness to more than four lakh people over the past year.
In late December, the municipal body began to slap spot fines from Rs 250 to Rs 500 on those spitting on roads, urinating in the open, or littering. “Other efforts to deter habitual offenders haven’t worked in the past. We hope this public shaming will work as a deterrent,” the Mayor had said while announcing a plan to publish names of offenders in newspapers and broadcasting them over radio. On several occasions she has stepped out of her official vehicle to fine offenders personally.
But it isn’t just the stick. In October, IMC distributed 1,000 free dustbins to vehicle owners to encourage them to not throw waste out of windows. The bottle-shaped dustbins fit into car bottleholders, are now sold for Rs 35 each in the city’s busy Palasia neighbourhood.
There have been other steps too, from employing 1,000 ragpickers to segregate dry waste to installing recycling units in gardens, outside hotels, and marriage halls to make compost from organic waste.
Compost pits were built at fruit and vegetable and markets, and a biomethanation plant has been set up at Choitharam Mandi.
The IMC removed garbage bins that used to be always overflowing, attracting stray animals and birds besides being an obvious eyesore. Swachhata Samitis were set up in schools and colleges, and participants in religious and other processions were encouraged to keep the streets clean. Public toilets were built in large numbers.