‘Swachh’ Sultanpur Lodhi impresses visitors from Punjab and outside

Anju Agnihotri Chaba
A total of 4,550 safai karamcharis are working round the clock to keep the town clean. (Express photo)

Nihal Singh (60) was among a group 25 persons who came from UK to participate in the 550th birth anniversary celebrations of Guru Nanak Dev. Sabrina (35), part of another group of NRIs from Australia, also paid obeisance at Sultanpur Lodhi. Both were impressed by the effort put in by the administration to keep the town scrubbed up and spruced for the celebrations.

“Before coming here to participate in the celebrations, I never thought that the city (Sultanpur Lodhi) would be so spick and span, that too when lakhs were visiting it every day, and eating at langars,” said Nihal Singh.

“I visited the entire city...Surprisingly, one could not even find a piece of waste paper on on the road or garbage in streets, in open drains,” said Sabrina, adding that the “city was cleaner than several places even in Australia”.
But she asked if it would continue to be clean now that the celebrations are over.

While cleanliness was a common refrain among visitors, keeping the city squeaky clean involved 4,550 safai karamcharis — men and women, who worked round the clock in three shifts. Dedicated teams were deployed for every part of the city and they did not leave their assigned duties till someone else took over at the spot. While the main event is over, the deployment of men and resources will continue at the same level till November 20.

“Three teams of 10 safai karamcharis each are working on this lane and when one team goes for rest after 8-hour duty, second team reaches before the first team leaves and in this manner this road is never left without a safai karamchari,” said Balbir Rani, a safai karamchari on duty between Rotary Chowk and Gurwara Ber Sahib.

Given the sewa spirit attached to the event many, safai karamcharis were seen rushing to pick litter from the road when visitors would throw it on the street.  “It was tough day for us on November 9 as there was heavy rain on November 8 night. All roads had become muddy and even tent cities and langars were filled with muddy water, but next morning we put extra hours and got everything cleaned before the onset of the rush of the devotees,” said another safai karamchari, Mahinder Kumar.

“We started cleaning in the city on October 20 and that time we were collecting 20 to 22 tonnes garbage from city daily as we needed to clean it for the celebrations. When visits by devotees started we expected that 1-2 lakh devotees would visit city daily post November 1 but the number went to 3-4 lakhs daily post November 1,” said Allwyn D’Souza, Project Manager, Crystal, the firm that was was hired for keeping the city clean. The company hired around 3300 safai karamcharis and were assigned 1250 safai karamcharis by the Local Bodies Department.

D’Souza added that the pilgrims’ number reached its peak on November 10, 11 and 12 with 8.5 lakh, 10 lakh and over 10 lakh , respectively, visiting the city.  “We are collecting 46 tonnes garbage daily for the past some days and have given a toll free number. After getting call from any part the city, garbage is collected within 20 minutes,” he said, adding that district administration and Local Bodies Department was a great help in keeping the city clean during the event.

Regional Deputy Director Local Government Barjinder Singh said: “We have been taking rounds of the entire city in the night and getting roads cleaned and garbage collected. Local Bodies Department is managing the garbage collection and cleanliness of city and had engaged Delhi-based Crystal company for this.” He said that nearly 110 vehicles were deployed for collecting garbage from every spot including langars and dustbins and taking to a designated dump.

As 26 Tata Ace vehicles, 14 tractor trollies, 45 e-rehris, 54 rickshaw rehris, 2 JCBs, 160 dustbins of size 4 feet by 4 feet and 2,390 dustbins of 20-kg each are being used, and 250 honeycomb bio-compostable pits at over 66 langar sites are being used for bio-composting of kitchen waste.

“It was a big project and goes beyond our imagination, but still we managed it well and will continue our work till November 20,’ said D’souza, adding that “our real heroes are our safai karamcharis and we are motivating them with cash prizes and sweets”.

Apart from keeping the streets clean, additional workforce was at work to keep the toilets clean. The Department of Water Supply and Sanitation deployed 1100 safai karacharis for cleaning of toilets, urinals and bathrooms as 1908 toilets, 1476 urinals and 132 bathing units (total 3516 units), apart from toilets and bathrooms inside the tent cities.