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Partisan debate erupts over Kolkata figuring near bottom of ‘clean cities’ list

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Shillong, January 14: In terms of political awareness the people of West Bengal are always rated a step ahead of their counterparts in other states, as often even minor issues spark off heated debates here.

The latest report by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry on the “cleanest” and “dirtiest” cities in India has led to an intense discourse in West Bengal.

The cause of the brouhaha is the fact that in both the categories of ‘Cities with population over a lakh’ and ‘Cities with population below a lakh,’ in the cleanliness report, cities in West Bengal including the state capital Kolkata have been ranked among the worst performers.

The discourse on the report was sparked off by West Bengal Municipal Affairs & Urban Development Minister and Kolkata Municipal Corporation Mayor Firhad Hakim’s statement that in the central report Kolkata and other cities in the state have been wrongfully portrayed in a bad light.

“This report is meant to malign the image of the state in this perspective,” he said.

While making this observation he referred to a recent report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) which showed Kolkata in a favourable light in terms of safety.

“In the recent NCRB report the Union Government has certified Kolkata as the safest city. Now this report by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry is clearly meant to malign the image of the state to counter the accolades in terms of safety standards,” Hakim said.

However, the state BJP leadership has rubbished Hakim’s allegations, claiming the Centre’s cleanliness report was prepared on the basis of inputs sent by different urban civic bodies including the municipal corporations and municipalities.

The state BJP leaders also described the minister’s reference to the NCRB report as totally unrelated and absurd.

Two findings in the cleanliness report in the category of ‘Cities with population over a lakh’ seem to have irked the minister the most.

Among the 446 cities surveyed under this category, Kolkata’s position is 438th and the last position on this count has also been occupied by a city from West Bengal, which is Kolkata-adjacent Howrah.

In fact, the last ten ranking cities in the list under this category are from West Bengal. Chronologically they are Bhatpara, Kolkata, Kanchrapara, Bidhannagar, Rishra, Asansol, Krishnanagar, Madhyamgram, Kalyani and Howrah.

Reacting to the report, the minister said that such findings seem to be fictitious especially in the backdrop of the fact that several visitors to Kolkata have praised the city for its cleanliness. “One should also move around the nook and corners of Howrah city to find out how clean it is,” he said.

In the category of ‘Cities with population over a lakh’, at least four cities from West Bengal have found place among the last 100 of the total 3,970 cities surveyed.

Of the 88 Ganga-adjacent cities surveyed under this category, nine cities from West Bengal have been ranked among the last ten.

Environment activists explained that the cleanliness of a city is determined under several parameters including open defecation, garbage collection and recycling, special toilets for People with Disabilities and other similar factors.

“From the report it is evident that such factors were totally neglected by the urban civic bodies concerned, be it municipal corporations or municipalities in West Bengal. So instead of indulging in a blame-game by framing conspiracy theories, it is better for the urban civic bodies to concentrate on how to make things better on these counts. Remember that once you get into a denial mode about problems you will never be able to address them,” said a city-based environmental activist. (IANS)

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