The results are in and the Government’s Swacch Sur­vek­­shan – a survey of 73 ­cities of India – confirms what last year’s private study found: Mysore is India’s cleanest city. Chennai is nowhere in the top ten, though it must be some consolation that it is not in the bottom ten either. Ranking 37, our city has shown that its cleanliness record is at best ­middling. That is not bad, but it certainly is not good when you consider that we have ­always claimed we are a world-class metropolis, or almost there.
The survey, conducted by 25 teams, visited 46 locations in each city and these included ­religious places, railway and bus stations, markets and toilet complexes. The availability of dustbins was also marked. One of the chief criteria was the way each town managed its solid waste. Over 100,000 residents were quizzed on whether they were aware of what their civic body was doing to promote cleanliness. In all of this, Mysore came out tops, followed by Chandigarh and Tiruchirap­palli. And before we take solace in the excuse that all of these are tier 2 towns not facing the problems of the larger metros, let us also mention that New Delhi came 4th and Greater Mumbai stood 10th. That gives us much food for thought, does it not?
What is it that Mysore has done that we are incapable of? Plenty apparently. The last few weeks have seen enough and more news reports on the ­success of the erstwhile capital of the eponymous princely state when it comes to its cleanliness quotient. Here are some gleanings.
Six years ago, Mysore was given a blue ranking – diseased but recovering status. In India, most cities get a black rating – indicating they need considerable improvement. It was then that Mysore’s municipal corporation decided that it would take up several initiatives to achieve green ratings – marking it a healthy city. Chief among these was the elimination of defecation in the open, the management of solid waste, recycling of wastewater, and the segregation of garbage at source.
All of this is not new to the town, but then Chennai is no newcomer to these either. At Mysore, the effort in the last five years has been to install several public toilets and, more importantly, keep them clean and usable. The waste segregation effort in the city was accelerated by making evangelists out of the Corporation workers, referred to in local parlance as Paurakarmikas. These people have been fanning out into their localities and asking households to segregate their waste. It is, however, not as though the town is free of all problems – its waste disposal is still not perfect, it all ends in a landfill, and strikes by its sanitation staff happen frequently. Yet, it is the small steps it has taken that have made for a happy result. In Chennai, waste segregation has not taken off despite tall promises and when was the last time a Corporation worker came home to tell you to separate your rubbish into categories?
Studies also reveal another reason for Mysore’s cleanliness fetish – its tourist influx. The Government realises that with over 30 lakh visitors annually to see its heritage and architecture, the city has to be a showpiece worthy of the time and money that they spend in coming over. This consciousness has percolated to the lowest levels and residents feel that it is their responsibility to ensure that Mysore presents its best face to the tourists. We need not elaborate on what Chen­nai’s track record has been in this regard. While it has done commendable work on parks and open spaces, its score as far as heritage buildings and precincts are concerned is, at best middling. It is no wonder that our overall cleanliness record is also just so. Mysore has not yet made it to green, but is well on its way. Chennai remains solidly in the black.