Politician, cricketer, commentator, public speaker, and a turncoat-Navjot Singh Sidhu is well known for his controversial statements and activities. In an election rally in Indore, Sidhu made obscene remarks on Malini Gaur, Mayor of Indore. “Taali thoko aur iske sath mahapaur ko bhi thoko,” (clap your hands and also hit the mayor), said Sidhu in the rally. The remark by Sidhu is against the woman who played an important role in the turnaround of Indore. The city used to be the dirtiest city in the country but now finds place among the cleanest ones. Indore was ranked as the cleanest city in India in 2017 and 2018 as far as Swachh Survekshan report is concerned.
The media gave encouraging feedback to the city administration and filled the pages of newspaper with clean images of the city. But very few people are aware of the person who brought Indore from the 180th rank in 2015 to 1st in 2017. Malini Gaur was elected Mayor of Indore in February 2018; she is the widow of former MP and higher education minister, Laxman Singh Gaur.
Malini Gaur was elected in 2015 and within one year of her taking charge, the rank of the city improved. “The day Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a call for Swachh Bharat from the ramparts of Red Fort in 2015, we decided to work on it,” said Gaur. The city with population of around 20 lakhs first implemented penalties for littering the city. The penalty was anything from 100 rupees to 1 lakh rupees. “It’s not just fear, people respect the work being done by the IMC,” Gaur added. She established one of the best integrated solid waste management for sustainable cleanliness and sewage treatment plants. The Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM) declined from 145 microgram per unit (Safe Threshold – 100) in 2015 to about 70 in 2018 and plans to reduce it to 40 in the years to come.
The administrators from around 150 municipalities have visited Indore to learn the mantra of cleaning a city in record time. “It’s political and administrative will, and the support of people,” added Gaur.
She faced resistance from business lobbies and safai karmcharis but Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s government supported her and provided her with funds required for the cleaning mission. All the works of the cleanliness cycle ranging from collection and transportation to treatment and disposal are being done by the corporation itself without the involvement of private players. It is not that government money was spent extravagantly as the operational cost to keep the city clean stood at just 160 crore with a capital investment of 150 crore rupees. Indore Municipal Corporation (INC) has been allocated a budget of 400 crore under the Swachh Bharat Mission “The idea is to keep the working cost low,” said mayor of Indore. The households and companies pay just rupees 60 and 90 per month for the cleanliness purpose.
The cleanliness of the cities has been ignored for long. The ‘utopia’ of Gram Swaraj did not allow people and policymakers to embrace cities and solve their problems. The story of cities has not been told in interesting ways in our history books. However, since the period of economic liberalization, the story of cities did really begun in the country. In the upcoming decades, many cities will rise to prominence and many would fall. If we look at history to trace the urban cultures, human civilization seems to be all about urbanization and de-urbanization.
Whenever humans moved forward towards progress, cities rose to prominence. Be it the Indus Valley civilization or the great Gupta Empire period which is considered to be the ‘golden age of India’. We find urbanization as one of the central themes in all these great civilizations. The exponential rate through which urbanization has been carried forward indicates that Indian civilization is flourishing once again.