Prem Sharma sells gutka and cigarettes near the Vijay Nagar square, but the most visible part of his tiny business is the dustbin that he dare not lose. Similar is the case with all small and big businesses across the city.
"In Indore, people fear the yellow vehicles more than the police vehicles," he said referring to the vehicles of the Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) that patrol the city round the clock and penalise those spreading litter on the streets.
The penalties for littering the city (population about 2 million) can be anything between Rs 100 and Rs 1 lakh and the IMC has done well last year, collecting spot fines to the tune of Rs 1 crore in the city.
"It's not just fear, people respect the work being done by the IMC," says Indore Mayor and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Malini Gaur. True, Prem Sharma takes pride in the fact that he is a resident of the city dubbed cleanest in India in a countrywide rating done by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
The force behind the stupendous rise of Indore on the Swachh Survekshan Rankings is Mayor Malini Gaur. Indore rose from a low of 180 in 2015, to 25 in 2016 and finally to the number one rank among 434 cities in 2017.
"The day Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a call for Swachh Bharat from the ramparts of Red Fort in 2015, we decided to work on it," said Gaur who has another two years as Mayor. "We are quite confident of retaining the top position in 2018," she told a group of visiting correspondents. The visit was organised by BJP's Good Governance Department for some Delhi and Karnataka journalists.
With efforts on all fronts, including establishment of integrated solid waste management, the city has brought down the Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) from 145 microgram per unit in 2015 to about 70 now, and there is plan to cut it to 40. The safe threshold is 100.
Till date, Indore has been visited by about 250 municipal authorities from across India to learn the mantra. "It's political and administrative will, and the support of people," says the Mayor simply.
Probing further reveals the Mayor withstood all resistance -- from political parties, business lobbies and sanitation workers. It also required a conscious decision to keep out private contractors. The job is done entirely by the corporation itself -- from collection and transportation to treatment and disposal.
"Private companies are not in a position to absorb the sudden shock loads, which is common in this work," said Swachh Bharat Mission consultant to IMC Asad Warsi.
IMC engaged with various associations like those of schools, hospitals, temples and hotels to design a sustainable system that has made Indore perhaps the only city in India that is litter-free, garbage-free and free from stray animals.
The city plans to move beyond having one of the best solid waste management and sewage treatment plants. It is looking at a facility to make compost, at extracting methane gas from waste from the wholesale vegetable market to fuel some of the city buses, to making the district open defecation free (ODF), ensuring dry and wet waste segregation at a door-to-door level, and cleaning monuments and footpaths each night.
Indore has come out with a tender for sewage sludge hygienisation facility that will kill potentially infectious bacteria in the sludge and make it odour-free through radiation. It will be in place by 2019, making Indore a poster city for the BJP to advertise its achievements before the Lok Sabha polls.
Rajesh Godale, a Chief Sanitary Inspector (CSI) at IMC, while taking photographs of mechanised sweeping vehicles and footpath cleaners at work around midnight, said, "There are four CSIs who go around the city taking photographs of the cleaning process each night that is shared on a Whatsapp group as proof. I am sure Indore would be the cleanest city once again."
To keep the city spic and span, the IMC has a budget of Rs 400 crore under the Swachh Bharat Mission, but its operational cost is just Rs 160 crore after a capital investment of Rs 150 crore. "The idea is to keep the working cost low," said the Mayor.
Individual households pay Rs 60 and commercial units pay Rs 90 per month for Clean Indore.
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