Corruption in waste disposal

Scams are highlighted when it comes to buying of arms, bagging lucrative telecom contracts, and banking scams, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Corruption pervades all layers and all levels, from the central government to municipal corporations. It is shameful when it happens while managing waste. It makes a mockery of the Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat campaign.

The common man suffers if companies band together and fix prices for their own benefit. But nothing is more galling when it is done to bag contracts for municipal organic and inorganic solid waste processing plants. Waste collection and disposal is a civic service and yet, not only do private companies loot the government when it comes to these contracts, the government itself connives with these cartels. That is unacceptable.

A social organisation, the Nagrik Chetna Manch, and the Competition Commission of India (CCI) busted a racket a few days ago (news articles). It was reported that the CCI “imposed a total penalty of more than Rs 3.5 crore on six firms and some of their executives for cartelisation with respect to tenders floated by Pune Municipal Corporation..there was an attempt to rig the tenders by way of submitting proxy/ cover bids”.

Expressing happiness over the CCI action, Major Gen. (retd.) S.N. Jatar of the Nagrik Chetna Manch, told The Hindu, “Often, I find that a lack of awareness about the Act precludes individuals and NGOs from using it to redress such practices. The CCI Act is a much better recourse than courts which are heavily burdened. Court procedures are also much more complicated and cumbersome.”

India is facing great challenges in waste disposal:

kfc garbageOver 377 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities and generate 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per annum. Only 43 million tonnes (MT) of the waste is collected, 11.9 MT is treated and 31 MT is dumped in landfill sites. Solid Waste Management (SWM) is one among the basic essential services provided by municipal authorities in the country to keep urban centres clean. However, almost all municipal authorities deposit solid waste at a dumpyard within or outside the city haphazardly.

While we laud the services of NGOs to highlight these problems, it is time that the government shone the spotlight on all contracts which directly fulfill a civic need, and be extra vigilant. Clean cities should become as much a priority as good roads and scam free banks. Otherwise, the efforts of citizens and rag pickers to segregate garbage will come to nought.

Related Reading: Politics and Crime – the connection.

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