Wednesday, October 5th, 2022 16:48:51

Not so Swachh after all!

Updated: July 1, 2016 12:13 pm

India, despite being a very engaged democracy, where people take to the streets representing different public issues, they never agitated and appealed to the government to improve the sanitation system. They appeared to be in comfort, with not so clean environment, probably an age-old habit. Public goods were always the least priority and now with advertisements arriving for private goods through bill boards and 24/7 TV channels, the demand for public goods has further gone down. The denial of positive moves by the management of the institutions and those dealing with public policies left most village roads without a public toilet. With private toilets unavailable due to general lack of awareness and the absence of any regulation imposed by the village and town administration, people went in the open to defecate for which no fines were imposed by the administration. In comparison, development of roads, street lights, umpteen entertainment places in the bigger cities and the metros with no laws to stem migration from smaller towns and villages generated a ceaseless stream of migration from villages and small towns to the metros and bigger cities. Slums became a haven for all of these droves of migrants. The dirty unhygienic practices travelled along with the migrants to the cleaner cities. Lawmakers, who had encouraged them to arrive to the metros to swell their vote bank, come in the way of regulating these migrants. The city administration in the metros and big cities looked the other way when the migrants in large numbers dirtied the city without fear of any retribution from the administration.

In his bid to create a safe environment in the country on October 2, 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a mission to clean India’s cities and villages. The campaign, inaugurated to coincide with Gandhi Jayanti, aims to realise its vision of ‘Clean India’ by October 2, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. In the months after it was launched, the campaign gained momentum with many celebrities, politicians and academic institutions organising cleanliness drives across the country. As a reminder of how seriously his government takes this mission, the prime minister brought up the issue during his Independence Day speech as well, talking about inadequate number of toilets. A total of 31.83 lakh toilets were built between April 2014 and January 2015 under this campaign, which is 25.4 per cent of the target for 2014-15. In the tenure of 5 years, the government plans to invest nearly Rs 2 lakh crore to construct 12 crore toilets across India. The ambitious campaign has its fair share of challenges too. An impact assessment study conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) revealed that toilets built in rural areas were lying unused, as the villagers were wary of using them. Modi nominated nine celebrities, asking them to nominate nine more people to make the initiative go viral. These included Goa governor Mridula Sinha, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, yoga guru Baba Ramdev, Congress lawmaker and former union minister Shashi Tharoor, industrialist Anil Ambani, actors Kamal Hasan, Priyanka Chopra and Salman Khan and the team of popular TV serial Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma.

Toilets For The Poor

Imperative of Innovative Craftsmanship


The ‘name and shame ‘scheme launched by district administration of Mathura in UP seeks to post photographs of open defecators on social media (apropos, Sunday Times, April 10). The scheme is probably inspired by a media advertisement in favour of in-house toilets for saving a newly-wedded village woman from embarrassment arising from exposure of her body while answering the call of nature.  This approach to open defecation amounts to pulling wrinkles on the nose in disgust and contemplate sanctions on uncouth poor and rustics whose toilet habits are believed to reveal lack of cultivation rather than an effect of poverty and living conditions.

A fleet-footed entrepreneur will express the strategic intent differently. He will know that the quest is not for world-class toilets for all to realize a world-class swatchh bharat.  Nor is it a quest for uniform toilets at all locations. The campaign against open defecation should take the common man as an important stakeholder in its success. The leadership cannot set aside the local and cultural preferences of the target population. The local context should be a necessary determinant in building competencies among workers. Innovatively designed toilets are integral to prime minister’s dream. A unity between hand and mind needs to be cemented by love for the people. It is an approach to innovation which ‘looks under the hood’ and is bottom-up. We are familiar with capital-intensive research and development undertaken by companies manufacturing high-end branded sanitary ware for realizing profits. The success of the project calls for inexpensive home-grown innovations. Such innovations will reaffirm the ‘science, technology and innovation policy of the government’ (SIT-13) which, besides high technology-led economy, calls for ‘technology of the people, for the people and by the people’.

Project administrators have an imperative to identify and mobilize amateur-inventors for undertaking such innovative work. Such inventors can be found all over. From the station of life where they are situated, they will address offensive aspects of toilet practices and suggest technological solutions rather than caustic deterrents. They will be sensitive to their social environment and not evaluate people’s ways against the standards of the rich or the westernized elite. They will test the proposed changes against people’s responses to them. Amateur-inventors should be encouraged to experiment on toilet designs and fabricate prototypes incorporating innovative ideas. They should also be encouraged to make it a participatory activity. Local carpenters, masons and potters should be actively associated to constitute a team.

These thoughts crystallized when I was searching internet-based information on Indian Patents and accidently hit upon four toilet-related patents listed in the name of one Kailash Narayan who was shown as a vakil in a small town of western UP called Bijnor. He invented technology for bridging the gap between the toilet habits, as observed by him, with the kind of user-sophistication needed for operating water-based flushing systems. This discovery dazzled me. Follow-up inquiries led me to some persons who knew him personally. He has a number of patents to his credit, all aimed at innovative solutions.  His effort extended to cement manufacturing and packaging also. During the late thirties, his patents gave Dalmia cement an edge over ACC cement.  The picture shown here is a gift to me from them. I asked myself, why was it that non-professional, non-expert inventors like him, and there would be many around, did not get noticed. Is it because the pursuit of modernity moves vertically towards western models of problem-solving? Social difference does not matter to such modernizers. But the swatchh bharat project pitches for difference in design and technology to match social plurality on the ground. Being judgmental of non-modern

practices is neither liberal nor democratic. Amateur-inventors like him have a job to do for marching swatchh bharat project to its goal in a manner which is democratic and liberal in its sensibilities.

(The writer is from Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi)

by K.C.R. Raja

Municipal Corporation of Delhi

A rotten mess


The responsibility of solid waste management in Delhi is with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi(MCD) which is subdivided into five municipal authorities. Right from generation, collection, storage, transfer, transport, processing to disposal of solid waste is done by different zones of the municipal corporation. According to the Delhi government’s waste management plan, in the absence of a proper landfill site, these five municipal bodies have been using the three garbage dumping sites. The waste generated by North and East Delhi are dumped at Bhalswa and Ghazipur respectively; whereas that of South Delhi was dumped at Okhla. But, with the shutdown of the Okhla site, all the waste is dumped at the 03-07-2016other sites. Looking at the condition of the three landfills, with garbage overflowing beyond its demarcated areas, the Delhi HC asked the Delhi government to look for sites for two new landfills, an order which can’t be done due to non-availability of land.

Apart from all these, MCD is always fraught with strikes and corruption issues. One can see garbage on the streets of all over Delhi and sweepers who are constantly on strike. Even when they are working, they move dust and debris from one side of the road to another, blocking drains, which then have to be de-silted. According to The Pioneer the trifurcation of the MCD was the root cause of all the trouble. According to statistics, the revenue of these corporations are Rs 5,975 crores but the combined salary expenditure is Rs 6,240 crores — this includes the salary of employees, arrears, medical allowances and pensions and thus the misery. So, by sheer analogy one can see that just by the division into these three the salaries rose three times. Three mayors instead of one; where there was one commissioner now there are three; additional commissioners have gone up from six to twelve. This goes on down the line to more offices, cars and thus much more expense.

(Uncollected garbage in various part of Delhi may be seen in the photos)

All pomp-n-show, no results

To put an end to open defecation and adopt better solid waste management practices, the one-year target for urban areas was to finish constructing 25 lakh individual toilets, 1 lakh community and public toilets, achieve 100 per cent collection and transportation of waste in 1,000 cities and fully processing and disposal of waste in 100 cities. Only 20-25 per cent of the target in terms of toilet construction has been achieved while on the garbage management front, the results are even more awful. Rankings released earlier show several major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Patna, Lucknow, Jaipur among others are still far from their targets of cleanliness.

One has to keep in mind that India generates about 60 million tonnes of garbage every year. Of this ten million tonnes of garbage is generated in just the metropolitan cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata. Delhi generates approximately 9,000 metric tonnes of solid waste, which is dumped into three landfill sites. Two of the three landfills in Delhi are overused and should have been stopped being used long ago. According to a report of Central Pollution Control Board, way back in 2011 had claimed that all the landfill sites in Delhi is much smaller in size than what it should have been. As a matter of fact, Delhi’s landfill sites are currently situated at 164 acres instead of 650 acres which is required.

Segregation of waste should occur at the source, when the waste is collected. The areas designated for the waste collection in the metropolitan cities are always overflowing due to lack of segregation. Recyclable waste like construction and demolition waste, organic waste like household garbage, toxic waste like medical waste, are all mixed together.


Nearly 20 per cent of methane gas emissions in India is caused by these kind of landfills. In Delhi, if one travel past the Gazipur landfill then one is bound to see great spirals of smoke climbing the horizon, as the trash catches fire due to the heat generated by the decomposition of waste. Most of these landfills have not been built according to accepted specifications and so is termed as dumping grounds sites rather than landfills by the experts.

Cities in India would need strong regulations, till awareness comes, which could take at least 25 years. No great achievements can be effected, with complacency and regulatory authorities, looking the other way. Another way of achieving the goal could be through motivation of the sanitation workers by duly introducing annual awards, by high personages, including cash awards for cleanliness, zone wise, in every municipality in India. India’s economic and health future heavily depends on bringing a sanitation revolution, and certainly incremental efforts in the realm of sanitation would not only require capital but more importantly, the involvement of the government, the corporate India and the general public if the cleanliness and sanitation drive has to take shape as a revolution in the Indian cities and villages.

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