The State administration has to come clear on whether local governing bodies like municipalities and village panchayats can start what are being called ‘garbage sentinel schemes’ without the consent of the government.
After Margao Municipal Council began a garbage sentinel programme, in the town wherein it invited citizens to send in pictures or videos of persons dumping garbage in the town and promising a reward for this, now Sancoale panchayat gram sabha has suggested that a similar scheme be started in the village. The final decision on this will be taken by the panchayat body, but a very big query remains on whether local governing bodies can implement such a scheme or programme.
The reason for the grassroots bodies seeking to start such schemes is to contain the indiscriminate dumping of garbage within their jurisdiction. One of the inherent reasons for the garbage mounds in various areas is the lack of planning in the villages and towns. There are already today various villages that have an almost urban character, with gated housing complexes and also other buildings that may not be gated complexes but still have a number of residential apartments. While giving the clearances for these constructions, the resultant garbage that would be created was not taken into account and so no provision was made in the villages to collect and manage the garbage. A large number of village panchayats have no garbage collection and management system, which leads to the dumping of kitchen waste as well as dry garbage, without any segregation, in areas in the village.
Concerning the MMC garbage sentinel scheme, the Directorate of Municipal Administration had not accorded its approval to the scheme before it had begun. Besides, the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016 notified by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in April 2016 empowers municipalities to execute penalty in form of spot fine for garbage litterers. There is no provision in these rules for any fines to be levied at a later date. This raises a legal question, as under the sentinel scheme the incident will have to be investigated and since the investigation process rests with the police department can a municipality or a panchayat launch such a scheme?
Sentinel schemes, however, may not be the answer to the growing menace of garbage and littering. Currently, the Department of Science, Technology and Environment has authorised the Police Department with the task of issuing challans and accepting fines for littering. The Police levy a fine of Rs 100, while under the MMC scheme the fine is Rs 5,000 – which works out to be 50 times higher. There is also the award in the form of money that is given to the citizen who photographs or videographs the persons dumping garbage. While this will work to name, shame and penalise the offender, will it stop littering?
Penalising the offender will work to a certain extent. However, the effort should be to create a proper system of garbage collection and management so that the people have no reason to dump the garbage in open spaces and blind spots. Permissions for construction of residential complexes that have a large number of apartments have to make it mandatory that the builder makes available the space and the system for garbage management, and the society that at a later takes over the management of the complex does not renege on this. Only a system such as this will be able to stem the dumping of garbage in the open. The State, along with the local governing bodies, has to make a concerted effort to bring about this change to reduce the indiscriminate garbage dumping.