16 April 2024 05:06 PM



Swachh Bharat Great Idea, But Leave The Army Out Of It


Many a program initiated by the PM have made little headway, essentially due to lack of effort and involvement by those charged with the task of implementing these programs.

This is so because responsibility for their implementation and consequent accountability is not fully spelt out. While the drive for Swachh Bharat is most commendable and calls for mass participation, but none has been charged with the responsibility to ensure implementation and made accountable, consequently there is little progress on the ground.

This is so despite all the push by the PM. Too much dependence is placed on the individual and little on the administration. What is often overlooked in that in the Indian setting, both, incentives and disincentives must come into play for full implementation of a plan. Those who litter need to be hauled up and equally those who are required to oversee and ensure cleanliness and timely disposal of waste are made accountable.

Therefore for this program to succeed the issue needs to be dealt at both levels. There is much to be desired in the means and modes of implementation of this drive. Especially when the change required is fundamental and right across the country. While holding brooms etc by some VIPs may be alright as a photo op, but this is not enough and thus has made no difference to the prevalence of filth all around.

As a people we are, through long habit, careless in disposal of waste. As a practice we are given to keeping our kitchen neat and clean, but through habit and long practice, inclined to dispose off the refuge over the wall on to the street. Where-in, proper disposal of waste becomes someone else’s problem.

Overtime the quantum of refuge has increased many fold and so also the problem of its proper disposal. While many countries have found solution to this universal problem through incentives and disincentives, proper solution to this problem has eluded the government of India.

To ask the military to take up such a task in remote areas and religious shrines is not only most inappropriate and totally uncalled for, but amounts to open acknowledgement of failure of civil administration in most mundane area of its functioning.

As a first requirement there should be adequate number of refuge bins right across the country and proper system to clear these bins and disposal of waste at village, town and district level organized by the district administration.

Individually every one needs to be made responsible to keep own area neat and clean. Failure to abide by this basic requirement must end in disincentives and fines: without exception. Therefore, it is essential to fix responsibility of an individual for incorrect disposal of waste.

Those tasked for disposal of waste and for carrying out the same diligently, should be made accountable and failure to comply with this basic requirement must be punished. The final disposal of refuge and waste, through proper scientific methods, must rest with the district administration.

Responsibilities to ensure proper disposal of waste and refuge from village to district level must be fixed. If, so far, this program has not succeeded, it is because no official has been made responsible and accountable for keeping areas on his charge free of waste and refuge. At the district level, the district magistrate must be charged with responsibility and held accountable for the cleanliness of the district. Where district administration fails to enforce cleanliness and ensure correct and timely disposal of waste and refuge, then sacking must follow.

We as Indian are not particular in keeping our surrounding clean and orderly. Even in foreign countries, where Indians are in large numbers i.e. England, USA, one notices vast difference between areas where only locals live or own shops and Indian’s living areas and their markets. But in cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong, where laws on polluting and disposal of waste are stringent, Indians too abide by the rules.

It may be recalled that during the colonial era, no cyclist could take to the road without a light on his cycle, but now cycles do not even have reflectors on the rear mudguards and where there are reflectors, these are generally fake. These reflect nothing except inefficiency of civil administration.

So the solution lies in making district administration accountable for cleanliness, correct disposal of waste and garbage. Lay down a period of 3 months for district administration to clean up the district and thereafter institute a system of checks and inspections.

Laxity and inefficiency in keeping the district clean and proper disposal of garbage must result in sackings and not mere transfers of those half a dozen deputy commissioners whose districts are the filthiest.

Once such a step is taken, Swachh Bharat program will simply take off and we will have Bharat of PM’s dreams.

(Lt General Harwant Singh(Retired) is former Deputy Army Chief)