A road-map for Swachh Cities and Towns

Dr. Trilok Kumar Jain
Published on: 11th April 2015
“Good Morning..." “Good Morning...” but it is not a good morning for most of us. As we wake up and stroll down for a morning walk, we feel disgusted to see the appalling conditions of our roads, the rising piles of garbage, the inadequate sewage system, the inappropriate waste disposal systems, etc. We are witnessing rapid urbanization without adequate planning. We are experiencing crowding of cities which were not designed for this. We are experiencing a situation where people are forced to experience hell on this otherwise beautiful planet.

With the massive urbanization the situation will worsen in the years to come. When the present itself is so unmanageable we cannot predict the future. The problems are imminent. What is the preparation? If we look at the government, the answer is disappointing. It is estimated that by 2030, the population in cities will increase to over 60 Crores from the present population of 40 Crores. The ever-increasing population will require better amenities and resources and the government is just unable to meet these requirements. It is estimated that we will require Rs. 40,00,000 Crore (over next fifteen years) for meeting the requirements of good cities and these sums are appalling for any government. The government, therefore, very clearly assets that it cannot handle all this finance. It is better that the government should remain restricted (involvement of government in mega-projects results in huge corruption and the ultimate results are unanticipated burdens on common people).
Swachh Bharat
Can't we have self-regulated, self-financed wards? The amount of Rs. 40,00,000 Crores looks exorbitant, but if you look at per-capita cost, it is just Rs. 500 per month. This is the amount that every middle class family can afford. Can’t we give the liberty to the cities and towns to evolve self-regulated and self-financed systems? Look at small towns of Alandur and Pammal (Tamil Nadu); they were able to evolve their self-financed systems for urban infrastructure. Similar examples can be found out in other cities and towns. Our media exaggerates the weaknesses and mistakes of our pre-independent India. However, much before independence, in my own city of Bikaner, there were self-regulated and self-financed wards. Each ward would have its own square (open space), its own common building (called Panchayati at that time), its own library, its own PAATA (a wooden platform for meetings) and self-regulated system of urban governance. Many of the wards had their own security systems including security gates (called Pirol at that time).

Urban management is something on which neither Central nor State governments have expertise. Shouldn’t we allow our cities and towns to evolve their own systems of urban governance? Those cities and towns which evolve their own self-regulated urban governance, should also get the right to retain tax collections from that towns/cities – particularly, taxes like property tax, road tax etc. There should be periodic rating and ranking of cities on their cleanliness and order, and those cities, which are self-regulated and  self-managed (and getting good ranking also), should get a share of GST/Sales Tax for self-regulation. If a provision could be made that those cities and towns which have self-regulated systems, whould be free from income tax, it would certainly make a huge difference and we will certainly witness a series of Swachh Cities and Towns. An initiative like this can truly add to the “Swachh Bharat Campaign”.
Filth, dirt, dust, pollution
Dirty water, dirty air, no solution
Penalties, fines, and tax collection,
No roads, no drainage, no sanitation,
Amazing Dreams of good cities  
Ideals of world-class smart-cities
Promises unlimited, progress limited
Roads cleaned when CM Visited
Poor citizens have to pay for everything
Why not trust their self-regulation
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