[Editorial Analysis] Sifting the pile

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: Swachh Sarvekshan rankings
Mains level: Government policies, interventions and schemes


• Swachh Sarvekshan rankings were released recently.

The Swachh Sarvekshan rankings:

• It was launched as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which aimed to make India clean and free of open defecation by 2nd October 2019.

• It is an annual survey of cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation in cities and towns across India. The first survey was undertaken in 2016 and covered 73 cities; by 2021 the survey had grown to cover 4320 cities and was said to be the largest cleanliness survey in the world.

• Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) has now conducted the 6th edition of the survey to rank all cities under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) with Quality Council of India (QCI) as its implementation partner, to improve its coverage.

• Objective of the Survey: to encourage large scale citizen participation, ensure sustainability of initiatives taken towards garbage-free and open defecation free cities, provide credible outcomes which would be validated by third party certification, institutionalize existing systems through online processes and create awareness amongst all sections of society.

2021 Rankings:

• Indore was ranked the cleanest city for the fifth year, followed by Surat and Vijayawada.

• Chhattisgarh was the cleanest State, for the third time, in the category of ‘States with more than 100 urban local bodies’.

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency, Varanasi, won for the cleanest ‘Ganga city’.

• This year there was a novel ‘Prerak Daaur Samman’ that saw Indore, Surat, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi Municipal Council and Tirupati categorised as ‘divya’ (platinum). They were assessed for solid waste management.

About the Survey for the rankings:

• The organiser, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, surveyed 4,320 cities for nearly a month and solicited feedback from 4.2 crore people.

• The Categories for evaluation include: garbage disposal, open defecation-free ratings, functionality and maintenance of community toilets and safe management of faecal sludge.

Procedure followed:

• Part 1 – Service Level Progress (SLP): Data provided by ULBs.

• Part 2 – Certification: Based on GFC Star rating, ODF+/ODF++/Water+

• Part 3 – Based on GFC Star rating, ODF+/ODF++/Water+: 5 components – Feedback, engagement, experience, Swachhta app, Innovation

• Final Score: Cities are ranked based on marks obtained from Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

• Prerak Dauur Samman awards: It gives rank according to the state rankings, on the basis of ODF, ODF + and ODF ++ status. It includes categories of divya (platinum), anupam (gold), ujjwal (silver), udit (bronze), and aarohi (copper/aspiring).

Criticism of the Ranking procedure:

• It is based on feedback. Every State has at least a few participants who will top one category or the other, thus making the process a giant appeasement scheme.

• Problem with State ranking – No categorization by size: Along with a category such as ‘States with over 100 urban local bodies (ULB),’ where Maharashtra and MP were ranked second and third, respectively, there was also a top ranker for ‘State with less than 100 ULBs’ where Jharkhand was judged the cleanest.

• Then there was a category for a ‘Ganga’ city and separate population-wise categories. Unsurprisingly, these were entities that had already topped ranks in other categories.

• Though the number of cities surveyed has increased since the first edition of the survey in 2016, it appears that the same cities — Indore, Surat, for instance — keep topping the list.

• No clarity on what it intends to achieve: is it motivating cities to significantly allocate resources towards improving sanitation? Are cleaner cities cleaner because they are better positioned to access State funds and thus able to pull further away from other cities? Do States focus their energies and funds in keeping some cities clean to avail of a rank in any of the wide number of categories?

Way Forward:

• Rankings serve two broad purposes: A publicity boost and recognition for the other winners but also motivation to climb higher on the totem pole.

• However, reducing a metric as complex as sanitation and cleanliness to blunt rankings can often induce a false sense of progress. Both at the regional level and at the Centre there should be more qualitative analysis of whether India’s cities are getting cleaner in the aggregate or if numbers are hiding inequity.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Conference of Parties 26 (COP 26), consider the following statements:

1. The COP26 will not unveil a treaty as in 2015 when the Paris Agreement came into being but is expected to guide implementation of the Paris Agreement.

2. The 2022 edition of the Conference of Parties, or the 27th COP, will take place at Delhi, India.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

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