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More ‘swachh promises’ from Swachh Bharat Mission

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There would be trashcans and toilets in Indian cities at intervals of 500 metres under the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), its director, Praveen Prakash, has said, noting that steps were also being taken to penalise offenders for spitting and littering.

“The mission has gathered pace since its launch (on October 2, 2014) and will achieve all its targets,” Prakash told in an interview.

“Our target is to provide dustbins and toilets after every 500 metres (in urban areas). We will also focus on creating awareness among the masses,” he said, adding: “The government is contemplating imposing penalties so that people practise the rules on cleanliness.”

Prakash, however, said that the penalties would be imposed only after adequate infrastructure was in place and awareness is created among people.

The fines will be gradually imposed after studying the impact in smaller areas.

“It will be enforced in a ward first, then 10 wards and later in the entire city,” he said, adding that penalties for cleanliness-related violations were the norm in much of the developed world and also in city states like Singapore.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission seeking to achieve its targets by Oct 2, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Mission seeks to construct 10.4 million individual household toilets and 508,000 community and public toilets, as also ensure 100 percent scientific disposal of municipal solid waste in 4,041 designated towns.

It also seeks elimination of open defecation and eradication of manual scavenging.

Prakash, an Indian Administrative officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, admitted that the pace of implementing the Mission had been slow in its first year.

“The pace of work was slow in the first year since we were focussed on making policies and removing administrative shortcomings. We are confident of fulfilling the targets by October 2, 2019,” he said.

Prakash, who also apprises the Prime Minister’s Office on developments concerning the mission, said that the task was tough but achievable.

“I feel only 15 percent work took place in this area (achieving total sanitation) in the last about 65 years and we have a target of doing the rest of the work in five years. I am confident of achieving this target within the given time frame,” he said.

Prakash said that an effort was being made to bring about behavioural changes among people through self-help groups.

“Governance of local bodies also needs to be reformed. We are working hard in this direction too,” Prakash added.

He said that private players were also being involved in the sanitation drive.

“Private players are being involved in processes such as conversion of waste to compost,” he said.

He also took a dig at those criticising the Mission.

“We have already constructed 1.2 million toilets and are working at fast pace. Those criticising us should wait till 2019. We will answer them then,” he said.

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