Jammu Municipality fails miserably once again

Rajan Gandhi
PM Modi’s 2014 initiative of Swachh Bharat Mission to make India clean and free from open defecation by 150th anniversary of Bapu Gandhi in 2019 is nothing but fulfilling the dream of Mahatama Gandhi who in 1916 itself had declared ‘Swatcchata’ to be even more important than political independence. Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has been conducting Swachh Survekshans since 2016 but this year’s Survekshan was world’s largest cleanliness survey with hundreds of cities covered in a month in which 5 Lakhs+ ULB document evidences were evaluated, 50 Lakhs+ Geo tagged photos captured and documented from field with over 4 Crores+ citizens engagement, a completely digitized and paperless survey impacting fifty crore lives spread pan India.
Two new certifications were introduced on initiatives on ODF+/ODF++ (Open Defecation Free) and Star Rating of Garbage Free Cities. The concept of Star Rating of cities was to introduce a certification process which involves assessment of various locations in each and every ward within a city, checking for cleanliness of drains and water bodies, plastic waste management, managing of construction and demolition waste, etc. through a process of direct observation and citizen feedback. The process of certification was done through third parties namely Quality Council of India, who was already assessing the ODF status of cities, was further mandated to assess the ODF+/ODF++ declarations. Another third party agency, Kantar Public, was entrusted to assess the star eligibility of applicants.
Apart from the newly introduced certification processes (together worth 1250 marks), the scoring for each ULB under Swachh Survekshan 2019 included components that were carried forward from all previous Survekshans. These included SLP (Service Level Progress) (1250 marks), which involved review of documentary evidence provided by ULBs against activities they claim to be undertaking; Independent Validation, where part-marks were deducted from SLP if on-ground verification differed from documented claim; Direct Observation on (1250 marks) where status of cleanliness was verified through on-ground observation at sampled locations; and Citizen’s Feedback (1250 marks), which included collecting direct feedback from the citizens through online and offline means and number of Swacchta App downloads and complaint redressed. Thus, the overall marks in Swachh Survekshan 2019 was 5000, an increase of 1000 marks from the previous year.
A total of around three thousand assessors from Karvy went on ground to visit seven lakh locations across nearly 75,000 wards, gathering photographic evidence under the Swachh Survekshan. In addition, a team of 3000 feet on street were deployed to conduct over 15 lakh face-to face interviews for citizen feedback, to supplement the feedbacks gathered through other platforms, including outbound calling. The activities of these assessors and survey enumerators were monitored real time by 250 persons and a project management team with presence in every state capital as well as at a central node at NOIDA. The synced photographs from ground locations came in real-time through customized apps used by the assessors. There are a total of 33 indicators associated with SLP, broken up into seven thematic areas. Of the 33 indicators sustainable sanitation (25% with 7 questions), collection and transportation (27 % with 7 questions) and processing and disposal (30% with 8 questions) collectively have 82% of total weightage and that’s where JMC failed miserably in all three parameters. On ground verification of residential and commercial areas, public and community toilets, vegetable/fruit and meat/fish markets, catchment areas of railway stations, bus stands, airport of city, bulk waste generators was randomly done.
Citizen Feedback has been allocated 1250 marks which were divided into two major segments -Direct Citizen’s Feedback and Swacchta App based indicators. Direct Citizen Feedback, which comprised of 850 marks, was collected from the citizens of each ULB through four avenues, face-to-face survey, outbound calling (through Karvy’s own call centre situated at Noida), through the designated web portal using OTP enabled access, through IVRS, where an automated recorded version of the survey with the 1969 complaint number and citizens taking the survey through Swacchta App.
With all these hawk eyed evaluation process in place for extensive survey, all self proclaimed claims of JMC packed off like a castle of play cards and from a ranking of 251 in 2017, 212 in 2018 and 318 in first quarter survey of 2019 Jammu City further slipped to 350th ranking in second quarter survey. Most astonishing is the brazenness of the Mayor, Corporators and officials who still want public to believe that all this happened before their arrival on the scene which is a shameless lie as corporators took oath in October 2018 and Mayor/Dy Mayor soon afterwards in November and this whole survey has been done in 2019. Beauty of this survey is that with so many cross verification processes in place there is no scope of manipulation and the result is in front of everyone. A round of the Jammu City leaves one perplexed that this ‘City of Temples’ has been turned into ‘City of Filth and Garbage’. Heaps of garbage lying at collection sites near Geeta Bhavan, a walking distance from Civil Secretariat as well as back of DC Jammu’s office or at Gandhi Nagar in front of Pahalwan’s sweet shop, even during day time with officials turning a blind eye as if nothing wrong is happening around and citizens are meant to live in these stinking conditions. Most astonishing is the fact that a waste to manure machine was installed at Parade leaving no space for waste to be dumped there resulting whole garbage to be dumped on road which further results in choked drains with sludge at site.
This machine worth lakhs worked for few days and is lying defunct now since years with no accountability at all. All tall claims of JMC about sanitation and encroachment drives are just eye wash and nothing else with officials hand in glove with culprits as all city markets are virtually on footpaths, stinking public toilets, condition of nullah at bus stand, railway station, it seems that no effort has been put even at one place. There is no Solid Waste Management plan with any solution insight right now despite years of wrap on the knuckles by even HC. Only STP plant of Bhagwati Nagar remaining defunct and no new STP insight in near future, whole sewage is flowing down the water bodies polluting even ground water. There are numerous nullahs which are directly dumping untreated Jammu’s sewage into river Tawi. Recent survey of drinking water of Jammu City exposes JMC’s Swacchata claims as not a single water sample passed the test.
No household garbage collection in majority of wards and even if they are collecting at few places there is no proper dumping site and at few places workers just dump the collected material in the nullahs. Shortage of workers is cited but the fact is all these workers just work three hours in the morning and after that where they go is anyone’s guess. Even these workers are not provided any protective gears as they can be seen picking up garbage with unprotected hands only, without any gum shoes or raincoat or any uniform for that matter. Crunch of resources is not an issue, its lack of intent. Now JMC has outsourced the garbage collection in some wards charging a specific amount from public, a peculiar situation where public has to pay to various work force; separate for garbage collection, separate for drain cleaning and separate for lane cleaning, a three pronged money collection from public but ultimately zero visible impact on ground. Fact is that all top ranking municipalities have assigned NGO’s for all these tasks from collection to segregation, to treatment and they are not only paying royalties in crores to municipalities but even to households for garbage, a surprising fact. They are making petrol, cement blocks and what not out of garbage, virtually gold mine for everyone, a total contrast to our JMC which has only excuses to offer. Not only garbage collection but JMC has outsourced even lightening of streets to third party with the result right now no spares available, own workforce just drawing salaries for nothing. Daily choked drains, overflowing nullahs, heaps of garbage in every nook and corner and construction malba here and there, faulty street lights stare at public every day. Icing on the cake is trip of Corporators and Mayor to Ahmadabad to see the working of their Municipal Corporation, a mockery in the digital age where every information/presentations are available online at a click of mouse, but who cares, its public money.
With even Jammu Smart City Project being a non starter and no visible planning or effort by JMC is there, it is really a pathetic situation and even one and a half year of direct central rule has not changed situation much. With already at the bottom of the Swacch Abhiyaan Sarwekshan there is need of drastic measures to be taken at every level. Its sixth year of BJP rule and there is no excuse whatsoever over non deliverance of promised basic needs of the public. If same set of Corporators can try their best to get public involved for political rallies, why no mass awareness and participation campaign by these very Corporators for sanitation.
One fails to understand why authorities have year after year failed to set things right at Jammu where there is absolutely no terrorism related law and order problem, it’s just lack of intent to deliver on ground which is the biggest stumbling block. With new UT laws implemented, NGT has already given time till March this year after which they will be imposing a penalty of five lakh per day for no STP, a crisis situation in making. If professionals from outside the UT are required, it’s better LG takes a decision in the interest of public as present dispensation has totally failed to initiate anything on ground except false promises and lip services. With their own past Commissioners and enforcement staff involved in ACB/Vigilance cases JMC has much to answer to come clean. Only reshuffling of administrative staff has not delivered the desired results till now and in reality time has come to clear this rotten administrative setup first to get tangible work done on ground.