Litter and be fined, Delhi’s move to clean up from new year

December 16th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) A sparkling, clean Delhi and no bad smells either? This attractive picture seems a distinct possibility with the civic agency set to crack the whip from the new year on all those found littering and urinating in public places.With the 2010 Commonwealth Games barely two years away, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the capital’s largest civic agency, is keen to see Delhi look spic and span.

From Jan 1, 2009, a team of 132 anti-litter inspectors will go around the capital, slapping on-the-spot penalties of Rs.50 on offenders to enforce a long pending anti-litter law.

Though the move does not seem very different from previous attempts to enforce the anti-litter law, officials are hoping they will be able to sustain the cleanliness movement this time around.

“Keeping in mind the forthcoming Commonwealth Games and in keeping with Supreme Court directives, we have decided to initiate the enforcement of the anti-litter law from the New Year and to sustain efforts to keep the city clean,” MCD commissioner K.S. Mehra told IANS.

The Supreme Court had in 2006 asked for a strict law against those who littered the city. The implementation of the MCD’s policy was lax, with just 1,000 challans for penalties issued in 2006-07.

Delhi seems to face an uphill task when it comes to keeping the city clean. The city struggles to dispose of the 6,000 tonnes of solid waste generated daily, despite 50,000 MCD sweepers and 700 garbage trucks to manage the ‘legal litter’ collected at 3,000 garbage collection points across the city.

Many residents feel that while the menace of littering or urinating in public places is being acknowledged in the anti-litter law, the root cause for the problem is not being addressed in the implementation.

“Forget about being able to pay a penalty of Rs.50 - a majority of the people who urinate or defecate in public are migrant labourers who live in slums and live off an income of Rs.20 daily,” said Delhi university student Shahana Sheikh, whose report on sanitary conditions and state of public toilets in the capital compelled the Delhi High Court in August 2008 to direct civic bodies to provide better public conveniences.

“Awareness is crucial, but just telling people not to do something ‘to keep the city clean’ is not the answer - give them alternatives like increasing the number of public urinals and conveniences, and more importantly tell them how to use it,” Sheikh added.

Other residents feel law enforcers themselves needed to undergo “an attitude change”.

“The sanitation inspectors often get casual in their approach. I have often seen municipality wardens and garbage collectors themselves urinating in public,” said Raju, a street vendor near the Town Hall in Chandni Chowk.

Though the Delhi Municipal Act has anti-littering provisions, the process under it was too cumbersome. However, new by-laws to the anti-littering law, based on the Greater Mumbai model, were drawn up in 2008.

In March, the civic body had deployed 1,000 inspectors for issuing challans, but this step made no difference to the city’s cleanliness.

The new proposal aims at having 12 anti-littering inspectors in 10 zones — Central, City, Civil Lines, South, Najafgarh, Narela, Rohini, Shadara North, Shadara South and West — and six inspectors each in the remaining Sadar Paharganj and Karol Bagh zones, a total of 132 inspectors to tackle the litterbugs.

The measure this time, officials claim, is to ensure that maximum offenders are targeted. The MCD has decided to make it mandatory for inspectors to penalise a certain number of offenders daily, maybe 50 penalties by each inspector amounting to 6,600 challans in a day. “The figure for this is yet to be fixed,” Mehra added.

The question that arises is whether a mere fine of Rs.50 will be enough to rein in Delhi’s population of over 16 million?

“The idea is to reform, not penalise,” the MCD chairman said, adding the penalty is just to get the scheme under way.

“We have launched mass awareness campaigns. Educating individuals at all levels - since the time they are at primary school, till they are employed - on keeping our own city clean is the emphasis,” he added.

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