Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Then Why Do We Pay for 50,000 Sweepers in a City?

There is no doubt about the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has awakened the spirit of cleanliness among the citizens of the country, especially of the urban India. There is no doubt about the fact that the message of maintaining cleanliness and hygiene has reached the ears of thousands of people all across the country.

The cleanliness campaign has its doses of glamour and publicity too with many celebrities, bureaucrats and politicians joining in the mission, wielding the broom in front of the camera, and this has also become a fashionable idea of the elite and middle classes to pose, click and upload as a part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Yes, agreed, each and every citizen has the responsibility to keep the surroundings clean for the community’s own well-being. Yet, it’s also time now to address certain fundamental and structural issues that act as barriers to the country being more clean and hygienic. Take the case of the national Capital, it is a matter of fact that there are paid workers in massive numbers, fake and real, called safai karamcharis to maintain cleanliness in the city. The result is, we need a Swachh Bharat Abhiyan!

Delhi High Court blames safai karamcharis of Municipal Corporation Delhi (MCD)

The Delhi High Court has criticised and blamed the MCD for not carrying out the Swachh Bharat campaign in a proper manner and wasting public money as the safai karamcharis are not doing their job. In such a condition, it will be a big problem to make the abhiyan a success in the national Capital. It has been reported that in Delhi, there are more than 50,000 minicipal safai karamcharis and more than 11 lakh safai karamcharis across the country.

The Delhi High Court has blamed the MCD for not keeping track of what the safai karamcharis are doing, whether they are regular in attendance or not, whether they are really doing the cleaning jobs or not, on what regular intervals do they work, so on and so forth. If these workers who are employed by the MCD and entrusted with the responsibilities of cleaning, then they should be true to their duties and if any one worker is not doing his or her duty properly or abstaining from work, then he or she should be sacked.

That was the order given to the MCD officials by the High Court on November 26, 2014. The court also issued an order that the Department of Environment Management System (DEMS) be represented on December 8, 2014 and give a status report of the safai karamcharis to the court. The judges said, “If there is safai karamcharis posted in every municipal zone, then why there is no cleanliness? Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not going to kick off in this manner.”

The bench also added that safai karamcharis should not consider their duty as a simply 9 to 5 job. It is necessary that the municipal magistrates should check and monitor the cleaning done by these Government karamcharis or workers.

Role of MCD and DEMS

Delhi has a population of more than 18 million. It is one of the biggest metropolitan cities of the world and also the world’s most polluted city. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has been trifurcated into three corporations: South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC), North Delhi Municipal Corporation(NDMC) and East Delhi Municipal Corporation(EDMC). One of the major goals of the MCD and the Government is to make Delhi a well-managed, clean and hygienic city and a centre of urban excellence. The function of the Department of Environment Management System of the MCD can broadly be divided into the following:

  • Solid waste management
  • Management of storm water drainage system
  • To maintain the databank of all safai karmacharis and their employment according to the wards and zones.
  • Attendance management of the karamcharis.
  • Tracking the garbage collection points.
  • Tracking the amount of garbage collected.
  • Arrangement and monitoring of dustbins and dhalaos, nallas, drains in Delhi etc.

There are three agencies responsible for the management of municipal solid waste (MSW) in Delhi. They are MCD, NDMC and the Delhi Cantonment Board. The municipal solid waste operation under the MCD alone has more than 50,000 employees or safai karamcharis and is the biggest in the Union Territory. The comprehensive work of street cleaning, transportation and waste disposal is done by the MCD. Under these conditions, why is Delhi not yet been the cleanest city, being the national Capital of the country? Whom do we blame? The citizens of the city or the thousands of karamcharis deployed for cleaning or the officials who are responsible to see that the duties are carried out or not. It’s time to introspect now…

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