Indore's clean city tag is well-earned
On March 6, Indore, the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh was rated the cleanest city in the country, the third year on a trot in the Swachata Sarvekshan announced by the union government every year. In 2016, the first year of the survey, Indore was ranked 25 and toppled 24 other cities to win the contest the next year.
In the next three years, Indore has held steady at the top. Indore remaining in the pre-eminent position for three years displays an important aspect that evades most administrative units in India, that the key to sustainability is process-driven systems and not people driven ones.
Here's how: In the 2016 survey, when Indore was ranked 25th, it wasn't the cleanest city in the country but it wasn't seen as a really dirty city either. The ranking was in keeping with the average Madhya Pradesh mentality be that of a resident or a policy maker that the state in most matters is found usually in the middle of any list.
No one in MP sweats too much if the state is not at the top, being at the Madhya in most lists is normal. It was the same year that Manish Singh, a 2009 batch IAS officer, was posted as municipal commissioner in Indore. Manish had many years of experience in the city, like ADM, as Secretary of the Indore Mandi and as MD of the Audyogik Kendra Vikas Nigam. He decided to take up cleanliness in Indore as a campaign.
Manish found support from the people of the city that has very active civic society groups, and the political executive. Garbage gathering machines were procured, staff was hired, there was resistance from certain quarters but eventually, Indore emerged the cleanest city in the country in 2017.
An important decision in the process of attaining the result was to ensure door-to-door collection of garbage from homes instead of dumping at designated spots. Heavy fines were imposed on people who violated the rule of zero dumping. Street cleaning manually and with machines was also commenced.
Manish's role in cleaning Indore was appreciated by former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan in his book The Third Pillar. Rajan was born in Bhopal, but having lived in the US, he definitely knows what clean habitation is.
Manish, however, got transferred from the city in 2018 as Collector, Ujjain but ensured that he had an able successor in the form of Asheesh Singh, a 2010 batch IAS officer who had worked earlier in Ujjain during the Kumbh and as Collector in the neighbouring Dewas district.
In the 2018 rankings, Indore came number 1 in the country again but in all honesty all the work had been done by Manish before he got transferred out. But it was Indore retaining its top rank in 2019 that proved that once systems are put in place, good administrators will be able to run them smoothly to ensure desired results.
This is not taking anything away from Asheesh Singh, who during his tenure, ensured that the trenching ground in the city where garbage was dumped has been retrieved. Also, zero solid waste generating events such as the IPL season in the summer of 2018 were also Asheesh's brainchild.
There are numerous examples in India of how institutions set up by individuals excelled while the individuals were there but slipped once they demitted office. Bhopal, the MP capital, is an example that illustrates the point.
The city remained the second cleanest habitation in the country in two consecutive rankings in 2017 and 2018 but has slipped to 19th position in 2019.
It is an example where administrators failed to ensure that the decline in efficiency, if any, in their successors will be offset by the processes they set in place.
Ujjain is yet another example where the presence of a good administrator can improve efficiency but will not retain the efficiency unless systems are process-driven.
Ujjain and another town in the district, Nagda, have been ranked fourth cleanest and 18th cleanest in the country when they were nowhere last year. Manish's presence as Collector would've helped secure these rankings for the towns. An enduring challenge for good governance is to have process-driven systems instead of personality-driven ones. Indore has shown the way.
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