In fact, we were strongly criticising the government a lot for not doing anything to improve the sanitation situation in developing countries. During the discussion, we came across the quote from Leo Tolstoy that “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” With this quote, our discussion took a different path. It was a great realisation amongst us that we need to clean our mental garbage first to bring the change around us!
Sanitation – On Top of the Political Agenda
“A clean India would be the best tribute India could pay to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019,”
– Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s words on October 2, 2014, as he launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission).
On the evening of May 16, 2014, it was for the first time in the history, the Prime Minister of India focused on building toilets in his first victory speech. He mentioned that “Pehle shauchalaya, phir devalaya (First toilet, then temple)”. It was quite a shock for many but it was all about the change in the mindset of development politics. Sanitation space gained a momentum and brought in the topmost political agenda narrated by Honourable Prime Minister of India.
A Curious Case of Indore
A journey of transformation towards a clean India started on October 2, 2014. Amongst the various cities, Indore became a curious case of transforming cities into cleanest cities under its Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
The 500-year-old city, named after an old temple of Lord Indreshwar, served as the capital of the Holkar dynasty from the early 19th century until 1948. Indore is located in the heart of Malwa plateau, which is the Commercial Capital of Madhya Pradesh State. It’s legendary, Devi Ahilyabai Holkar is worshipped as the Mother Goddess of Indore.
Having Tag Of An Unhealthy City!
“Before 2015, Indore was like any other Indian city with poorly managed water and sanitation infrastructure. The city had decayed over the decades, neglected urban pressure and was pleading for a transformation. There was a lack of ownership by citizens and was believed that it is a duty of Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) for managing the waste of the city”
– Gaurav Vaidya, Urban Planner – Resident of Indore
Indore was in the grip of a plague in the early 20th century. Sir Patrick Geddes proposed that Indore to become a garden city and cleaned up, that its rivers be dredged, and its sanitation facilities improved as per the Master plan of 1914-1921. Indore was known for its water bodies. After 1960, Indore becoming one of the worst water-starved cities in India until the Narmada River came to its rescue.
In 2015, the city of Indore was famous for its public garbage dump. Citizens were annoyed with their government and agitated with full of protests, litigation against the corporation to take waste management seriously. Under these circumstances, Mrs. Malini Laxman Singh Gaur was elected Mayor of Indore, in February 2015. Safe sanitation was the promise on which she went to the polls.
Effective Woman Leadership
Under the leadership of the mayor of the city, the commissioner of Indore, NGOs and citizens, all came together and took a pledge to make their city clean and beautiful. However, the situation was challenging and demanding. The situation of transforming the city into a clean and beautiful city demanded its four piers (Mayor- political leader, Bureaucracy- the commissioner, NGO and its Citizens) to work continuously until the tag of the cleanest city of India is achieved.
The most challenging part of this transformation was to make citizens aware of good sanitation practices. The visionary lady mayor Mrs. Gaur decided to do this by relentlessly educating the citizens and involving them in the process of change. The four piers did not leave any stone unturned to make this possible.
[A snap of Mayor Mrs. Gaur distributing car-dustbin to the driver]
They conducted public rallies, meetings with self-help groups, resident welfare associations, religious leaders, automobile companies, transgender, public and private offices, elderly people, slum dwellers, and students.
They took the medium of art to narrate their goals to all their citizens. Street plays, drawings in public area, drawing competitions in schools and colleges did the work of spreading knowledge and change for them. They tried to bring this change by involving each sector of the citizens (gender, race, class, and caste).
They provided all the necessary infrastructure (physical and social) for the change to happen. This was important to gain the trust of people and their satisfaction level.
It’s All About the Mindset!
“We are now called as ‘Swaccha Mitra’: friend of people and not sweepers/cleaners.
We came from the most deprived section of the society. Now things have changed. This is the big mind set change. It’s a proud moment for us that we are the forces behind the city transformation. Our voices are being heard now by people. People do segregate the dry and wet waste. The public is so satisfied that they regularly pay a door-to-door collection fee.”
– Swachh Mitra, IMC (Interview taken by Gaurav Vaidya, a resident of Indore)
The high-impact effort was against Open Defecation (OD). IMC came up with the concept of ‘Dabba gang’ which roamed the city from 5 am to 9 am, in search of those who were defecating in the open.
Instead of punishing the residents, The IMC team did a survey of households who were defecating openly in 128 locations. The IMC team tried to understand the needs of the community. In responding to the demand from the community, over 10,000+ individual toilets were constructed in various slum locations as per the demand.
“One happy side-effect is that the incidence of malaria and dengue has fallen drastically. Doctors keh rahe hain ki bhaiyya patient hi aane band ho gaye hain (Doctors are reporting reduction in number of patients)”
– Jagtap, Head of consulting firm with visible pride
Behaviour change was definitely the key to Indore’s success, and the song “Ho halla”, encouraged locals to join the movement for a cleaner town. The song is constantly played by sanitation trucks throughout their trash collection rounds, is said to have been the Secret Ingredient to uniting residents as equal partners in the city’s cleanliness mission. This feeling of togetherness is what the locals call “APAN.”
A Journey of an Unhealthy City to the Cleanest City of India!
“I am a food lover from Delhi. Indore is known as Mini Mumbai and famous for its food. I visited Sarafa Bazaar to enjoy its delicious food in January 2018. To my surprise, there was no leftover food, no dirty plates, no garbage to be seen – anywhere. I have witnessed with my eyes the cleanliness drive undertook jointly by commercial vendors, residents and IMC. I was impressed!”
– Jyoti Dash, Research Fellow, Sanitation Capacity Building Programme, NIUA, Delhi
Cleanliness Index of India: 149th in 2014 to 1st in 2017
From being placed 149th in a cleanliness ranking of India’s cities in 2014, Indore Municipal Corporation climbed to the 25th position in 2016, and to the top of the heap consecutively for two years in 2017 and 2018. In three years, this commerce-driven city has seen a complete transformation.
The credit goes to the team with a positive attitude, public-spirited people of Indore catalysed by Woman Mayor, Municipal Commissioner, Municipal Councillors, and a team of Consultants and Sanitation staff.
“Cleanliness is a Habit; Cleanliness is a Festival; Cleanliness is Nothing but Clearing the Mental Garbage and Building the Sanitised Country.”
Tariqul Islam (Bangladesh), Dhruv Bhavsar (India), Ankita Gupta (India), Sagar Gupta (India), Suman Dhun Shrestha (Nepal) – currently studying MSc Sanitation in IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in partnership with UNESCO.