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Litterlouts beware, Amisha’s watching

Mumbai, Dec. 20: Not so long ago, Mumbaikars presumed their city was one big toilet. Today, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation earns Rs 87,000 a day from people who continue to think so.

A clean-up drive inaugurated by Bollywood star Amisha Patel three months ago has already made the BMC richer by Rs 1.3 crore.

The campaign discourages the city’s residents from spitting, littering and urinating in public places and penalises them if they default.

Mumbai does not look much cleaner since the campaign was launched on August 15, but BMC officials are not ready to give up.

Municipal commissioner K.C. Srivastava admits that the “littering habit has to be broken”. But he also acknowledges there is a long way to go before cleanliness targets are achieved.

Srivastava is willing to practise what he preaches. He has, reportedly, collected Rs 7,000 for the BMC by joining the clean-up drives.

Nearly 2.21 lakh Mumbaikars have been fined anywhere between Rs 50 to Rs 2,500 since the campaign started. The fines are decided on the basis of how much a place is dirtied.

The BMC has also decided that it is not going to make an exception for its own people. Flying squads routinely visit various BMC offices because, admittedly, “many of the staff are in the habit of taking paan and flavoured supari”.

While the BMC has been growing richer since the drive began, the real credit for keeping it going should go to a group of concerned citizens and some NGOs.

BMC executive Kiran Achrekar says the campaign has yielded results beyond expectation and the corporation is now planning to penalise individual defaulters and housing societies, who would be asked to segregate their own garbage.

Housing societies would have to shell out Rs 1,000 as penalty if they fail to comply. The BMC will also stop removing garbage from societies that “do not cooperate or default”.

Mumbaikars, however, are not convinced that adequate effort has been put into cleaning the city’s streets.

“These are on and off drives,” says Ravi Pujari, an accountant with State Bank of India. “Soon, the BMC will get tired and littering would start all over again.”

Advocating more public and institutional participation in the campaign, Pujari adds: “There is no perceptible difference in many of the mohallas because there needs to be a more effective awareness campaign.”

Others are more optimistic about the effort. “The main arteries are much cleaner these days,” says Rinku Verma, a resident of Dattani Park.

“I am sure the drive will spread to other parts of the city. Everything in our country moves very slowly, after all.”

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