The Great Indian Whitewash (update)

I am shamed. There obviously was an actionable strategy attached to this campaign (see the very informative Clean-Up website) and I have been unfair in my cursory criticism.

I am also particularly gladdened to see that fines to date (in 8 months) total more than Rs 1.7 crores, with 44000 offenders having been hauled up for their crimes against our kachrapolis.

This early success is clearly the result of a well-planned mechanism for enforcement – 1. a public-private partnership with security agencies to depute clean-up marshals, who are empowered to fine offenders within an infrastructure defined by the MCGM, along with a third-party audit system in place; 2. a willingness to change tactics along the way (the dept recently acknowledged and acted on the need to train trash marshals better) and 3. the always elusive resilience to keep a seemingly faddish program alive and alert.

A brief, unscientific analysis of the data throws up the following:

-Ward A tops the fine list, with Rs 14 lakh in collections: This might have been a severe repudiation of the theory that better educated people have more civic sense (ward A covers vast tracts of South Bombay) but we know that the cosmopolitan demography of the city and the chaotic deputation of its wards renders any such analysis meaningless.

-Fines collected certainly are a function of the number of trash marshals employed, and so we must say “annoint more marshals! bring on the trash police!” However, the economics are just shy of a people’s revolution: The current average corpus collected per marshal (over 8 mos) is Rs 91,182, which can be extrapolated to a yearly average of Rs136,772, which, on a revenue sharing basis of 50% means that the security firms earn Rs68,387 per marshal per year or Rs 5,699 per month (and I’m suspecting this payout is tax free). The average security guard earns a salary of Rs 5,333 as reported by the very useful “village version of linkedin”, babajob.com. In order to maintain parity that would leave the security firm only Rs 366 per marshal for their admin expenses and profit, a mere 6% margin, which is hardly likely to enthuse them.

A few other niggling queries (since this is, after all a complaint site):

-Why is the fine Rs 100 for defecating but Rs 200 for urinating in a public place? Is it easier to clean up after no 2?

-Why do pets get charged Rs 500 for defecating?

-Why is there no mention of what is being done about the other (and more permanent) goals of the program, viz “1. provision of additional facilities for cleanliness, and 2. education and awareness generation”

-What specific goals have been set for the program (degress of chakachak-ness achieved, change in attitudes effected or even fines collected)

-Why is all the communication bereft of a talkback mechanism, either to the website or helpline – both of which exist, and which should feature as a thumb rule of marketing and almost certainly for a broad based and complex program such as this, which relies on volunteerism and public alignment (did Gheuntak Godbole drop these in the hope of designing an uncluttered layout?)

-Finally, who changed the name and appellation of our civic authority to MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai), from BMC (Brihan Mumbai Managarpalika)? I felt that the earlier switch (from BMC – Bombay Municipal Corporation to BMC – Birhan Mumbai…ahh, well, lets leave the minutiae out of it) was one of the handiest and most parsimonious sleights of rebranding. A rare and honest event in the history of government propaganda, where the old was allowed to stand proudly with the new. How will the powers that be explain the fact that MCGM expands to English, whereas any and all municipal communication has now only to be conducted in motherland Marathi? This charade is only going to get more ludicrous, especially with the active participation of the “to the core very ghastly biased media.”

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One comment

  1. whattothink

    Further news: the BMC, sorry MCGM, has recognized the law of truly large numbers and decided to hand horses, brooms and billets out to student volunteers, who have joined the fight against filth and are empowered to fine offenders at will

    Does this evoke images of a Sena-like pogrom with manipulated Hitler Jugend terrorising the streets or a genuine awakening of our lumpen society – led by the optimism of youth? I guess your answer would depend on how cynical and paranoid you really are.

    On my part, I am just waiting for the day when I am able to haul up any of the number of assholes I encounter on the streets every day, violating the contract they hold as members of a civic society and start making citizen’s arrests – now that would really clean up mumbai.

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