Streamlining the Rural Waste Management Programme

Garbage bins are not a requirement if waste is managed as per required guidelines
Streamlining the Rural Waste Management Programme
File/ GK

Recently I got a call from Kralpora locality in BK Pora block of Budgam. The caller wanted me to highlight a local issue related to sanitation service provided by local panchayat. The young man told me that several  garbage bins were installed in Kralpora A,  by the local panchayat & within 3 to 4 days these bins were filled up completely. The locals wanted proper sanitation service from the Government so that the bin would be cleared on daily basis. I myself went to the site. I found a huge steel garbage bin painted green, filled with trash. It was lying there for days. I shot a video, uploaded the same on my Facebook page & Twitter handle. The local youth whom I interviewed told me that the huge iron trash bin was choked with trash and nobody from the local panchayat or officials of Rural Development Department were able to help them. I spoke to some officers of the Rural Development Department, but they could not give a satisfactory answer. Few said waste will go to the segregation shed, but that is yet to come up in Kralpora & other villages across J&K . Some officials told me people will have to pay every month for the sanitation service as dedicated sanitation workers would be hired to clear the waste daily.

Operational Guidelines SBM-G

When all this exercise was to be taken up, what was the Government supposed to do first? As per the chapter 9 of the Operational Guidelines of SBM Gramin phase 2, first of all a Swachata Plan (Sanitation Plan) had to be adopted by the local panchayat involving all people by holding a gram sabha. It would indeed have been adopted, but only on papers in Kralpora and other village panchayats across J&K. In spite of the clear directions in these guidelines that plan must go from gram panchayat, we see that it comes from the civil secretariat or Directorate to villages in J&K ?

The Block Development Officers (BDOs) are directed by their officers to execute the plan as per the will and wish of bureaucrats sitting in the civil secretariat. Panchayat members, Panchayat secretaries are following the orders and nobody in villages are able to give their suggestions on waste management.

This is not only the violation of the SBM Gramin phase 2 guidelines but it kills the essence of local self governance and Panchayati Raj as well.

IEC campaign basic requirement

The Information Education & Communication (IEC) campaign is the basic requirement under the Swachh Bharat Mission -SBM Gramin. Whether it was construction of washrooms under phase 1 or solid liquid waste management programme under the ongoing phase 2, the IEC campaign has a pivotal role & the same has been highlighted in the 2017 revised SBM Gramin guidelines and operational guidelines both. When it comes to holding an IEC campaign on the ground we see IEC programmes missing. Under the garb of holding IEC workshops and programmes, photographs are taken with some flex banners and brooms & these are depicted as IEC programmes. This was revealed to me a few years back after I sought IEC details using the RTI Act. Huge money has been drawn from the state exchequer in the last 6 years under IEC programmes, but the way these programmes are being held, that completely isn’t the essence of SBM-Gramin. Imams, preachers, social leaders have hardly been involved during the IEC campaign, had that been done, things would have been altogether different today.

SBM Gramin

As I have been saying for the last several years, the waste management programmes are no more a prerogative of people living in cities and towns only. Like municipal institutions providing sanitation service to people in urban areas, the gram panchayats in association with NGOs, Community Based Organisations (CBOs) and Self Help Groups (SHG) have to work together to ensure solid and liquid resource (SLRM) management. Under the national flagship programme, Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G) has already launched a solid liquid waste management programme in several states of India but in Jammu & Kashmir this programme has been launched only recently

The mission was started to accelerate the efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage. Under this mission launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd October 2014, all villages, Gram Panchayats, Districts, States and Union Territories in India declared themselves “open-defecation free” (ODF) by 2 October 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, by constructing over 100 million toilets in rural India.“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,” reads SBM Gramin’s official report .

Role of Professional Agencies

The guideline number 6.10.7 of SBM Grameen revised guidelines  says that every state or UT should have at least one Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) Consultant at the State level and one SLWM Consultant in each district to guide the preparations of the SLWM projects for each Gram Panchayat (GP). The guideline further says that assistance of professional agencies/NGOs may be sought to prepare/develop/test/implement such projects. The project preparation, supervision and monitoring costs of SLWM projects payable to such agencies may be made a part of the project cost itself.

“Maintenance costs for the first five years of operation may be made a part of the project cost. These projects can be made financially viable by dovetailing funds from other programmes and sources of funding like MG-NREGS, MPLAD, MLA-LAD funds, Finance Commission, CSR contribution, Swachh Bharat Kosh, donor funding, etc. Funding from programmes of other Ministries and departments may also be converged” reads the guideline.

The guideline number 6.11.2 says that in order to implement the projects professionally, Specialists/ Consultants/Agencies from the fields of IEC, Human Resource Development, School Sanitation & Hygiene Education, SLWM, Monitoring and Evaluation etc  may be hired at the State and district levels for the project period. 

The guideline number  6.11.3 says that State / UT  Governments are advised to post a government officer as a full-time Block Sanitation Officer (BSO). Until that is made operational, the State governments may officially assign SBM(G) activities to a senior official posted at the Block level. He/She may be assisted by a Block Coordinator and a Data Entry Operator engaged on contract who shall be provided emoluments to be decided by State. This Block level arrangement shall be tasked with handholding, supervising and  monitoring every Gram Panchayat (GP)  in the implementation of SBM-Grameen scheme.

DDC Chairman to head DSM-G

The 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.

In J&K the DDC Chairpersons seem to be unaware of their role. District Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin have hardly been constituted officially at district level. The Govt has failed even to hold capacity building workshops for Chairpersons or members of the District Development Councils across J&K. The DDC members, BDC members and even Sarpaches or Panchs  are unaware of their role, with the result Govt officers like Director Rural Sanitation, Deputy Commissioners , ACDs , BDOs are taking lead in execution of waste management programmes under SBM Gramin. There is complete chaos and confusion.

Dustbins not required

SBM Gramin guidelines has made it mandatory for every Gram Panchayat (GP) to have one Support Organisation (SO) like an NGO member etc associated with it for assisting in furthering the sanitation programme. The State and District Missions have to provide this support. Had this been done, we would not have seen trash bins installed first in villages. Instead the IEC campaign would have been organised for a given period of time which would sensitize the communities. After this activity the waste processing site would have been set up by involvement of local people. The third activity  would be handholding local residents to segregate the waste and undertake in house composting of kitchen & other biodegradable waste. Fourth activity should have been collection of plastic and other non biodegradable waste from each household and taking the same to the waste processing site which our Govt officials called Segregation Shed. From here the different plastic waste would go to the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) that has to be set up in each block.  Instead our  Govt is more focussed on buying huge garbage bins and technically these are not required at all when door to door waste collection will be taken up ? This is requirement under MSW Rules 2016 as w2ell.  In Indore there is not even a single garbage bin & the city is known as cleanest city in India. The compost pits that have been constructed at household level in J&K are faulty.  The six feet trenches have been dug in many villages across Budgam and I am unable to understand how the compost would be taken out from them ? A person would have to jump inside the pit to excavate the compost . This is ridiculous. Moreover these pits  would be  filled with rainwater and snow  as well?

Conclusion

The steel garbage bins that have been procured for crore of rupees and having been  installed in many villages will soon vanish as criminal elements are waiting to steal them and sell them to scrap dealers. As I write this piece, I saw the Kralpora garbage bin having been turned upside down while I was coming back home on Thursday evening. I am sure it will be stolen in some weeks.  We don’t require garbage bins provided the waste is cleared and collected on regular basis from every household. I wish our Govt had consulted the local bodies like Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) or the NGO’s working on ground with IMC. This city has the best waste management system in place and in recent sanitation survey (swachh survekshan) Indore was declared cleanest city in India for the sixth consecutive time. Pertinently there is no trash bin in Indore and the local municipality  earns crores from waste…

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement and Anant Fellow for Climate Action.

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