Once a civil servant decides to bring a change, there is nothing that can stop them. Meet Ritu Sain, an IAS officer, who made a huge difference in people’s lives. She had set an example recently in Chhattisgarh’s Ambikapur city in Surguja district where she turned the town from a stinking place to a clean town where people would love to live.
She is a 2003-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who recalls her old memories when she initially stepped into this town in February 2014. The moment she entered, she couldn’t bear the smell and it was then she decided to bring a change.
“There was a big signpost welcoming people to the municipal corporation of Ambikapur, and bang opposite that was a huge open dumping yard. The stink was unbearable. I thought to myself, what kind of impression the city would create if this was the first thing a person saw after entering,” she said.
Sain had just taken the post of collector in Ambikapur and she knew what she was going to do about it. She was familiar with her responsibilities and was determined towards her deed. “There was no looking back since that day. I was clear about what I wanted to do,” Sain, now Chhattisgarh’s additional resident commissioner in Delhi, said.
“It was a challenge. The city with a population of 1,45,000 had meagre funds and hardly any capacity to take up the cleaning task. I knew whatever I did would have to be participatory, viable and replicable,” Sain, who pursued international relations from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said.
After a hectic discussion with all the stakeholders available, Sain made a decisive plan within two months. The solid and liquid resource management model was started on a pilot basis in one ward.
Women from self-help groups (SHG) were tied up. A three-member team consisting of SHG workers was devised. Each team was allocated 100 households, where they would have to go door to door collecting waste.
A garbage clinic was opened in the ward, where the women separated the collected material into 24 categories of organic and inorganic waste. A third and final round of micro dissociation was done, after which the refined and cleaned waste was sold to scrap dealers.
By May 2016, all 48 wards of the city were covered and then the municipality also charged per user fine for door-to-door collections. As of now, 447 women work from 7 am to 5 pm daily at 48 garbage segregation centres with safety measures and they also undergo health checkups on a regular basis. All of them are also issued with safety gear such as jackets, aprons, gloves and masks.
Finally, the 16-acre yard has been transformed into a sanitation awareness park. The result is perceived clearly by people, the 200 overflowing community dustbins have been replaced by just five.
“It’s a self-sustaining model. Each woman gets to earn Rs 5,000 per month from user fees and sale of recyclables. We have spent Rs 6 crore to put the entire infrastructure in place and have already earned Rs 2 crore. The money earned is being spent on the sanitation workers,” Sain said.
Due to Sain’s efforts, in the 2018 cleanliness survey by the Union housing and urban affairs ministry, Ambikapur was declared the cleanest small city. “It’s very fulfilling to see that something we started has come so far and is sustaining itself,” she said.