Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Games knock door, but litter-free Delhi a distant dream

Much has been made of the beautification drive of the capital ahead of the Commonwealth Games, but dirty main streets specked with uncleared rubbish, construction rubble and civic litter remain an eyesore, throwing a question mark on the city's preparation for the big event a little more than three months from now.
And one reason cited by both residents and officials is the rampant delinquency of the army of safai karamcharis, or street cleaners, who remain a law to themselves.
The government has released crores of rupees for the "beautification" of the national capital for the mega sporting event in October that tens of thousands from across the world are expected to attend.
Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has repeatedly proclaimed that this ancient capital has been metamorphosed into a "world-class city", but both citizens and tourists complain about dirty streets and uncleared garbage heaps.
Stinking garbage piles near shopping or community areas or and the utter lack of conveniently placed waste bins for disposal of litter remain constant irritants, residents complain.
A recent McKinsey report warns that Indian cities could turn into "dry, stinking holes" by 2030. The report says that Delhiites will be soon forced to consume treated sewage water as they do in Singapore.
Besides this, Delhi ranked 24th in a Forbes magazine survey carried out in 2008 on the world's 25 dirtiest cities.
Residents complain that street cleaners either don't turn up for duty or barely clean streets once every day.
"The dumps have been installed to prevent garbage from spilling on to the roads. Improper maintenance of these dumps by the sanitary workers results in garbage getting scattered. They sweep the litter, collect it at places and don't bother to cart it away," said Pravish Kumar, a resident of Defence Colony.
Recently a special squad of ex-servicemen working for the civic body carried out an inspection on street cleaners and found glaring irregularities. The inspection squad found that many workers marked themselves present and then went missing from work.
MCD spokesperson Deep Mathur said the civic body does its best to keep the city clean and the public should also participate to maintain hygiene. "Instead of blaming the civic authorities, citizens should ensure cleanliness. The MCD tries its best to keep the city clean.
"But what can we do if the public throws the garbage in an unruly manner?", he asked.
The safai karamcharis in turn complain that the civic body does not provide them with adequate cleaning equipment and safety kits.
"It's easy to say that the bins are not cleared and stinking. But we only know the effort we put in to clean the dirt and debris of the city," says Meena Kumari, a safai karamchari working at Jangpura Extension.
"We clean the dumps every morning. It is tough for us to keep them clean throughout the day. Most of the time we clean the dumps with our bare hands," she said.

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