CS’s direction to clean-up Budgam
Last year, in January, I filed an application under Right to Information Act (RTI) in the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Budgam, seeking information about its rural waste management programme. I wanted information about the number of projects taken up under the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-Gramin) for managing solid and liquid waste in rural areas of the district. I had asked for a complete list of villages where collection, segregation and treatment of solid and liquid waste was undertaken as mandated under the SBM Gramin’s Solid Liquid Waste Management programme, which has been renamed as Solid Liquid Resource Management -SLRM
My application was forwarded to the District Panchayat Officer (DPO) now designated as Assistant Commissioner Panchayats (ACP). The ACPs are the nodal officers for SBM Gramin at district level. The response provided by the DPO was shocking. Out of 17 blocks and more than 296 village panchayats in Budgam district, there was not even a single village where waste management was undertaken by the local panchayat under SBM Gramin.
The official reply issued through letter No: DPO/Bud/3613-14 on February 15, 2021 by the DPO Budgam reads as follows:
“In reply to your RTI application point no 4 it is informed that 17 (seventeen) projects (one for each block) were taken in hand for SLRM under SBM as per the list enclosed as Annexure A . The DPR’s stand submitted to this office, out of which two were approved by the office of Deputy Commissioner Budgam. However, the same couldn’t be executed as locals raised objection for the execution.”
I am unable to understand why only 17 villages were selected out of 296 village panchayat’s for undertaking solid waste management. It is an irony that out of 17 DPRs submitted, only two were approved, which also were not executed. The net result with regard to solid & liquid waste management in district Budgam is zero. This is the case with almost all 20 districts. I haven’t heard of a single village where waste management was done by the government through local panchayats.
CS’s directive on waste management
I have tried my best to highlight the issue of waste management. For last many years I have been writing about waste management, doing advocacy around it, and seeking judicial intervention as well. I filed petitions in High Court and in National Green Tribunal (NGT) as well to ensure scientific waste management. The petitions did help a lot as the J&K Chief Secretary also appeared in one cases before the NGT’s principal bench last year. The petition titled Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat v/s Govt of Jammu & Kashmir was about accumulation of solid and liquid waste in Wullar and Hokersar wetlands. Even NGT had suggested 2 yrs back on my request to utilise funds under rural waste management programme for cleaning wetlands in Bandipora and Budgam. Till date not a single rupee has been utilised.
This author was forced to file another petition in NGT as district administration Budgam and Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) failed to keep Doodh Ganga clean and take up scientific solid and liquid waste management. A committee was constituted on the orders of the tribunal. The DCs of Srinagar, Budgam, Commissioner SMC and Regional Director Pollution Control Committee are its members. A preliminary report has been submitted by them and case is again listed on March 8th. My lawyer Advocate Rahul Chaudhary will submit counter response soon. A fresh ray of hope has generated in Budgam after Chief Secretary’s recent visit to the district. It seems waste management in rural areas of district will be taken up soon. In-spite of Rs 100 crores having been provided by Govt of India to Mission Director SBM Gramin in J&K (Director Rural Sanitation) , the work isn’t being taken up at panchayat level.
On Thursday Chief Secretary Dr A K Mehta visited Budgam. He seemed depressed about unscientific waste disposal in district. He gave Deputy Commissioner Budgam three months to make the district waste free. He gave clear directions in presence of the entire divisional and district administration to ensure waste management work was taken up at panchayat level. Chairman DDC Budgam Nazir Ahmad Khan, Principal Secretary Agriculture Production JK Govt Naveen Chaudhary, Divisional Commissioner P K Pole and Mission Director SBM Gramin were also present in the meeting along with battery of other officers. I remember a lot of media coverage was given when the district administration planned to start waste management work in Galwanpora more than 3 years back but the net result as on date is zero? I am not only singling out district administration Budgam but the situation is the same in other districts? Our officers are not taking eco-restoration, environment or waste management seriously as this was never prioritised especially in Budgam. With the visit of Chief Secretary to Budgam & showing his serious concern about waste management, it seems the district administration will take this task serious in the coming summer months which is the best time to execute the work at panchayat level.
District SBM Gramin
The authorities at the helm need to constitute District Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin in every district. This is mandatory under SBM Gramin guidelines. Chairman of Zilla Parishad who is also known as Chairman District Development Council (DDC) in J&K will head the District Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (DSM-G). The Deputy Commissioner/CEO Zilla Panchayat (DDC) shall be the Executive Vice Chairman. The members of the DSM-G would be all MPs/MLAs and MLCs of the district and Chairperson of the concerned Standing Committees of the Zilla Parishad (District Council) or their representatives. The CEO of the Zilla Parishad, District Officers of Education, Health, Panchayati Raj, Social Welfare, ICDS, PHE Jal Shakti, Agriculture, Information and Public Relation will also be the members of this district level committee. The NGOs can be identified by the DSBM(G) and co-opted into the Mission as members.
The CEO of the District Panchayat/Parishad, the Executive Engineer of PHE Jal Shakti, District Engineer of the Zilla Panchayat or any other officer approved by State Swachh Bharat Mission - SSBM(G) shall be the Member Secretary. The Mission as per SBM-G guidelines shall meet at least once a quarter. DSBM-G are 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. SBM-G is a centrally sponsored scheme with fund sharing pattern between centre and states, UT’s. This is 90:10 for North Eastern States, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand and UT of Jammu & Kashmir. 100 % funding is provided to remaining UTs and 60:40 ratio for the rest of the states. A village with a population upto 5000 people is provided Rs 60 per capita for solid waste management and upto Rs 280 per for grey water management. Villages with more than 5000 population get Rs 45 per capita for solid waste management and upto Rs 660 for grey water management. 30 % of the amount has to be borne by Gram Panchayats from the 15th Finance Commission grants. Construction of the soak pits, compost pits and grey water management tanks etc., will be taken care under MG-NREGS. The SBM guidelines say that each district will hire consultants through District SBM Gramin committee headed by DDC Chairman who will prepare a blueprint for solid liquid waste management work in the district.
The District SBM Gramin committee must be immediately constituted to kickstart rural waste management work in Budgam. In towns like Chadoora, Budgam, Beerwah, Magam, Khansahib and Chararsharief the Urban local bodies be activated. The involvement of credible and experienced national level and local NGOs be made for capacity building and awareness on waste management. Exposure trips be organised for officials of rural development department and ULBs including elected representatives. 50% MG NREGA funds be utilised for waste management and funds available with Rural Sanitation Department be also requisitioned. CSR funds be generated from banks, power grid corporation, NHAI and other PSUs or business houses operating in district. In-house composting of biodegradable waste be ensured in those areas where people have half kanal or more land around their houses. Gobar Dhan projects and schemes available with agriculture and horticulture be dovetailed to create community level vermicompost units.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Anant Fellow for Climate Action and Acumen India Fellow. He is also Chairman JK RTI Movement
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.