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November 21, 2022 7:56 pm

A Tale of Forlorn Garbage Bins

Non-operational District Swachh Bharat Missions

IN my previous articles, I have explained how services for waste management are not only the prerogative of people living in urban areas but this work has to be taken up in rural areas as well. The Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin explains this in detail. However, work is not being taken up on the ground. In fact, some months back, the Rural Development Department had tried to launch a rural waste management programme in J&K but this work has not been done on scientific lines as mandated under Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2016 (MSW Rules).

Before launching the programme, it was important to sensitise all about the work. Yet, the Government preferred to skip this entirely and instead jumped to supplying a large number of steel trash bins instead. The fate of these bins is interesting to note. Some have fulfilled their destiny of holding waste but no service has been put in place to actually empty them. Now, these trash bins – empty or filled – lie scattered or stolen.

Consequently, it now seems like this entire exercise is turning out to be a failure.

Through my social media campaigning, when I highlighted the grotesque images of these huge dustbins overflowing with trash through videos; some village panchayats did not install them at all (Photos from Gogge Pathri in Nagam block of Budagm district are a case in point). This has happened because employees of the Rural Development Department and members of panchayat have an apprehension that once filled, people will take pictures of these trash-filled and deserted trash bins and share them on social media. With no mechanism in place to actually empty them out, the best way, according to them, is to not provide dustbins at all. The ground level employees of the Rural Development department like Panchayat Secretary, Gram Rozgar Sevak (GRS) plus members of Panchayat (Sarpanch and Panchs) are now worried about what to do, as they are not trained to handle solid or liquid waste. Truly a situation quite keeping with the phrase, ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’.

Had the officials of the Rural Development Department properly studied the 2017 guidelines of SBM Gramin or its operational guidelines, there would not have been any chaos or confusion in implementing the Rural Waste Management programme in Jammu & Kashmir.

Moreover, the Government has also failed to constitute the District Swachh Bharat Mission (DSBM) committees at district level headed by Chairpersons of Zilla Parishad who are known as Chairpersons of District Development Council in J&K under Panchayati Raj Act 1989.

Swachh Bharat Mission       

The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was launched in 2014 to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage. The programme was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd October 2014 and under this national flagship programme, all villages, Gram Panchayats, Districts, States and Union Territories in India declared themselves “open-defecation free” (ODF) by 2nd October 2019; a feat which was celebrated on the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The Government claims that over 100 million toilets in rural India have been constructed. The official report of SBM Gramin reads:

“To ensure that the open defecation free behaviours are sustained, no one is left behind, and that solid and liquid waste management facilities are accessible, the Mission is moving towards the next Phase II of SBMG i.e ODF-Plus. ODF Plus activities under Phase II of Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) will reinforce ODF behaviours and focus on providing interventions for the safe management of solid and liquid waste in villages”

District SBM Gramin (DSBMG)

The operational guidelines of Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin clearly mention the role of Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in implementing Solid & Liquid Waste Management under SBM Gramin. From district to village panchayats, the roles and responsibilities have been explained in detail but unfortunately these guidelines are not being explained to PRI members. The operational guidelines issued by the Ministry of Drinking Water & Sanitation explains the role of District Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin – DSBM(G). The guidelines 8.5, page 36 throw light on the constitution of district mission. It reads:

“DSBM(G) shall be headed by the Chairman of Zilla Parishad. The District/Deputy

Commissioner/Magistrate/CEO Zilla Panchayat shall be the Executive Vice

Chairman. The members would be – all MPs/MLAs and MLCs of the district and Chairperson of the concerned Standing Committees of the Zilla Parishad or their representatives; CEO/AEO of the Zilla Parishad. District Officers of Education, Health, Panchayati Raj, Social Welfare, ICDS, PHE, Water Resources, Agriculture, Information and Public Relation. NGOs can be identified by the DSBM(G) and co-opted into the Mission as members.

CEO of the District Panchayat/Parishad; the Executive Engineer of PHED/District Engineer of the ZP/ any other officer approved by SSBM(G) shall be the Member Secretary “

 The guidelines make it mandatory that the DSBMG headed by Chairman DDC (Zilla Parishad) shall meet at least once a quarter. During these meetings, the district mission is supposed to plan and advise on implementation of the SBM (G) in the district with appropriate Information Education and Communication (IEC) strategies and convergence mechanisms with all line departments. In Jammu & Kashmir, however, bureaucrats are bypassing all this. Not one meeting has been convened by District SBM Gramin nor have these committees (District Missions) been constituted formally through a written order. Even the members of the mission including Chairpersons of DDC or its members, BDC Chairpersons have not been sensitized about SBM Gramin Phase II (solid and liquid waste management) nor have they been told what their role is to undertake the Rural Waste Management programme.

DSBM Management Committee

Under the District Swachh Bharat Mission Committee headed by Zilla Parishad Chief (DDC Chairman) is another committee called District Swachh Bharat Mission Management Committee (DSBMMC). This is chaired by the District Collector/Magistrate and comprises all district level officers of relevant departments. Under it, all the Block Development Officers- BDOs/ Block level officers in charge of sanitation, shall be formed and shall meet once a month to plan and monitor the implementation of the mission. The Committee is to carry out regular Block and Gram Panchayat level reviews. The Deputy Commissioner or CEO Zilla Panchayat (ADDC in case of J&K) is to be the nodal officer responsible for the implementation of the mission. Remuneration of all government employees in the Mission would be borne by the State. The DSBMMC can engage technical experts as consultants to be supported under the programme.

Had these technical people been hired by the District Committees in J&K there would not have been chaos and confusion as the entire process of waste management would have been streamlined. The garbage bins won’t have been overflowing with waste and other such bins won’t have been dumped inside the Panchayat building premises.

In absence of proper training to PRI members and officials of the Rural Development Department; and non-implementation of operational guidelines of SBM Gramin phase II, waste management work is not being undertaken in J&K. In many villages, compost pits and soakage pits have been constructed but they are built haphazardly.

The Junior Engineers, BDO, Panchayat Secretaries, DDC members and Chairpersons need to be sensitized about their roles and responsibilities.

  • Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer

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Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow and Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement. Feedback