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No funds if Swachh Bharat targets not met, Maharashtra govt tells urban local bodies

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The move is seen as a last-ditch attempt to push PM Modi’s pet project ahead of the state assembly and Lok Sabha polls, both due in 2019.

Mumbai: The BJP-led Maharashtra government has threatened to withhold development funds to urban local bodies if they fail to meet targets under the Swachh Bharat mission, one of PM Modi’s pet projects.

The move is seen as a last-ditch attempt by the government of chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to make errant civic bodies fall in line ahead of the 2019 state assembly and Lok Sabha polls.

The Fadnavis-led urban development department has asked all municipal councils and nagar panchayats in the state to ensure they segregate at least 75 per cent of their solid waste at source and then compost the same before May-end.

Municipal corporations have been given a deadline until June end.

“There is increased pressure now to meet targets, so we are using a carrot-and-stick method,” an urban development department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“We cannot withhold statutory funds to urban local bodies, but if they fail to meet targets we will withhold all discretionary funds that the state government provides for specific development projects,” the official added.

Statutory funds are funds the state government is obligated to give to local bodies under various budgeted state and central government schemes.

Discretionary funds, on the other hand, are those that the state government grants local bodies on a project-to-project basis.

Now, the urban local bodies have to formulate feasible projects and submit detailed project reports to get state and central grants for solid waste disposal.

How the state plans to keep track

As per the government’s estimates, every one tonne of wet waste produced in an urban area can help produce 150 to 200 kg of compost manure. “We will use this benchmark to understand to what extent urban local bodies are segregating their waste at source and composting,” the official added.

Besides, officials will conduct a survey of actual segregation to keep track of the garbage management work.

Of the two phases of the Swachh mission — making the state open-defecation free and ensuring cleanliness through proper waste disposal — the government has on paper achieved the former. The state urban development department declared urban Maharashtra open defecation free in October 2017, and rural Maharashtra last month, more than three years after the Union government launched the programme.

CM Fadnavis has been touting his state to be a frontrunner under Modi’s Swachh Bharat mission. With Maharashtra too going to polls in 2019, close on the heels of the Lok Sabha elections, the government has been pushing to meet targets under the second phase as well.

The Centre’s deadline for the mission is 2 October 2019, which is likely to coincide with the poll season in Maharashtra.

Current situation

Maharashtra has 384 urban local bodies, of which the government is expecting 260 to actively segregate, compost and prepare project proposals for solid waste disposal and management.

The rest will be given more time as they have been recently constituted as municipal councils and nagar panchayats from gram panchayats earlier.

So far, 213 local bodies have prepared detailed projects reports for solid waste disposal that have been vetted by the state government and sent to the Centre for approval.

“The first part is to get urban local bodies to submit detailed project reports, and second is to enforce segregation,” the urban development official said.

“We held workshops with urban local bodies last month and realised that despite repeated directives, many local bodies are not falling in line. This is now an ultimatum,” he added.

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