Mumbai: Modi government's Swachhata app keeps BMC on toes

(From left) A photograph of garbage strewn near Apex Hospital in Borivli West uploaded by Satyam Goradia on October 8; and a picture uploaded by the BMC of the spot that was cleared the same day(From left) A photograph of garbage strewn near Apex Hospital in Borivli West uploaded by Satyam Goradia on October 8; and a picture uploaded by the BMC of the spot that was cleared the same day

With Big Brother (read: the central government) watching, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), notorious for its lackadaisical attitude towards citizens woes, is surprisingly toeing the line. A mobile app, Swacchata, designed by the Ministry of Urban Development Department (MoUD) and launched in August, and while it hasn’t been tom-tommed, it’s been keeping BMC’s Solid Waste Management department busy. With a 24-hour mandatory response time, the app has been working like magic.

A screenshot of a resolved complaint
A screenshot of a resolved complaint

Interestingly, while there has been not a squeak about the app from the civic authorities here, Mumbaikars who stumbled upon it have been trying it out. In the last two months alone, the app has registered over 60 complaints. A majority of these have been attended to, and the results shared, with pictures of the cleaned up spot posted on the app. Complaints not resolved were ‘rejected’ over jurisdiction issues. For instance, if the road does not come under the BMC, it is not responsible for cleaning it.

Prompt action on complaints will earn the civic body 300 points per complaint under the Centre’s Swachh Bharat Mission, and greatly improve its chances of a higher ranking on the Centre’s list of clean cities.

How it works
After downloading the app on your mobile phone (Android/iOS), take a picture of a spot where garbage has piled up and upload it using your GPS (global positioning system) location. The complaint will be logged on the app, monitored by the Centre. It will be forwarded to the civic body of the city concerned (Mumbai, in this case), as well as the authorities expected to initiate action within 24 hours.

A senior official from the BMC said, “The Swacchata app is connected to another app, which is handled by a team of local civic officials from the Solid Waste Management (SWM) department. After citizens post their complaint, it is forwarded to the engineer of that particular ward.” The official said, “The engineer then calls the complainant to note down details of the spot and initiate a clean-up. After completion, civic officials post pictures of the cleaned spot.”

The purpose of the app is to ensure faster resolution of complaints by citizens, since the authorities are forced to react within a deadline.

A civic official, who did not wish to be named, said engineers have been responding in short time to avoid receiving follow-up calls from officials at the Centre, who have been watching over the operation like hawks.

BMC says
Speaking to mid-day, municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta said, “It’s a good initiative. Citizens’ involvement will be extremely important to make it a success. People should start using the app to ensure garbage is cleared immediately.”

In Mumbai, the app is moderated by an executive engineer and assistant engineer from the solid waste management department.

One of the engineers, who did not wish to be named, said, “As of now, we receive three complaints a day. Sometimes, there are minor glitches while registering a complaint. We are in touch with officials from the MoUD to have these fixed.”

Mumbai at No. 10
On the Swachh Sarvekshan index that is based on six parameters (listed below), Mumbai stood at a respectable 10 out of 73 cities surveyed between January 5 and January 20. The survey was conducted by the Quality Council of India (QCI) and covered all state capitals and 53 cities with a population of above one million.

1. Strategy for Open Defecation-Free town and Integrated Solid Waste Management (SWM)
2. Sweeping, door-to-door collection and transportation of solid waste
3. Processing and disposal of solid waste
4. Provision of public and community toilets
5. Construction of household toilets
6. Information, education and behaviour change communication activity

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