As India approaches three years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s governance, his first real game-changer mission – ‘Swachh Bharat (Clean India)’ – is turning out to be something of a genuine success.
By making India’s cities go toe-to-toe to become the top-ranked ‘cleanest’ city, Modi’s mission has become an innovative way to bring in ‘a healthy competition among cities vying for urban planning’.
In the first of its kind, a Swachh Bharat Mission survey compiled by the Union urban development ministry in 434 cities, the results indicate a fresh interest among planners and civic body managers in various cities to get rid of the usual ‘dirty picture’ and showcase a clean image.
Interestingly, the survey unveiled by Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu puts Indore as the cleanest and New Delhi (Lutyens Zone) among the top 10 clean cities in India.
In Delhi’s backyard, Faridabad has emerged as a fast mover among big cities.
While Uttar Pradesh’s most iconic landmark – Varanasi has taken a quantum leap in Swachh Bharat rankings – from 418 in 2014 to 32 in 2017, as many as 25 of its cities rank among 50 worst places in terms of cleanliness.
Naidu told Mail Today, ‘Indore is the cleanest with Bhopal another one in top 10 making Madhya Pradesh second to Gujarat, which are the top movers and shakers.
Closely following these two states are Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for having significantly improved their rankings from that of the survey conducted in 2014.
About 12 cities of Gujarat, 11 of MP and eight from Andhra Pradesh are among the top 50 clean cities.’ Naidu added, ‘All the cities surveyed in Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand have substantially improved their rankings over that of 2016 and 2014.
Besides Indore, the top 10 included Bhopal, Visakhapatnam, Surat, Mysuru, Tiruchirapally, NDMC, Navi Mumbai, Vadodara and Chandigarh.’
‘Such is the mission interest among the cities and the stiff competition that some cities have taken a slide from their earlier rankings despite no fall in sanitation standard.
‘Mysuru, for example, came down to fifth place this year, but there is no decline in sanitation standards.
‘The next two years are crucial. We all need to remind ourselves that a resurgent New India cannot be imagined without hygiene,’ he further said.
And the mission has significantly boosted the tourism image of India abroad and within the country, claimed Union tourism and culture minister Mahesh Sharma.
‘When PM Modi gave the first call for Swachh Bharat Mission in his speech from Red Fort and talked about clean toilets and improving sanitation, a beginning was made by the top leadership, which was earlier not even thought of.
‘His consistent thrust on cleanliness around historic monuments, public places and landmark cities, including heritage places like Varanasi, Mathura, Agra and Lucknow have worked in changing public view about our tourist places,’ he said.
No wonder, India has improved its position by 12 places in the global travel and tourism competitive index. Modi’s own constituency of Varanasi is a revelation, but not without collective planning and 24/7 monitoring by officials of all ranks.
‘We took it as a challenge after our ranking in 2014 showed us at 418. We made an action plan and listed the gaps, which were many – lack of community toilets, dustbins, garbage dumpers to defunct solid waste plants.
‘We started with door-to-door garbage collection, roped in private parties and launched a Swachh Bharat App, which had received thousands of complaints from locals and tourists on which we respond at the earliest.
‘Garbage should not be visible is the simple mission we have in mind and that helped in this year’s ranking,’ said Nitin Gokaran, Varanasi’s development commissioner.
‘Naidu, however, cautioned states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Punjab and Kerala to ‘substantially step up efforts to improve sanitation-standards in urban areas’.