Gandhi Chhadi set for Rs.300? Is Swachh Bharat Mission kidding?

So I decided to consider getting a “Gandhi Chhadi” [Gandhi stick] which is a long stick with a pointed metal tip that is useful to pick waste objects off the road without bending. It has been highlighted by Swachh Bharat Mission Urban since last year and a couple of addresses of manufacturers have been provided in a YouTube video.

On enquiry with the first supplier listed in the above video, it turns out they want Rs.300 for a set of these litter pickers and the Mission – yes, a whole Central govt Mission – has no distribution mechanism for this. So it can only be couriered.

Clearly, this shows the emptiness of such campaigns. This low tech device should have been outsourced for production, and made available for everyone to make, like a broom. In fact, modern versions of such pickers are today sold on Amazon, and these have a lever that operates as a gripper.

Not surprisingly, the Mission has not made known a plan to distribute even the old-style Chhadis to municipal workers, who have to keep bending everyday to pick up the trash that you and I toss around carelessly.

This is the one on sale on Amazon India for about Rs.500:


Another bid by police to intimidate The Hindu RE – The Hindu

The Andhra Pradesh police have been intimidating the family of The Hindu resident editor in Hyderabad, Nagesh Kumar in pursuit of a personal grudge.
This violates Supreme Court orders on enquiry and harassment of family of a citizen.
If people lump such actions quietly, the police state will only get stronger.

Another bid by police to intimidate The Hindu RE – The Hindu.

The challenge of wider, deeper unionisation in India

It is a heartening development that after years of weakening unionisation in the United States, there has been an actual increase in membership of the AFL-CIO.

Here’s the linked post that originally was published on my Facebook feed.

PSBB drowning, Zion school bus disaster and accountability

The general approach to disaster in Tamil Nadu today is worrying. Without holding a brief for anyone in the Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan student death case (read the report here) it is legitimate to ask whether the lower level staff were sufficiently empowered to ensure safety of children.

If indeed there were safety lapses and they had no way to resolve them because they lacked the authority, the answers for what happened would lie with the management. Of late, there have been numerous fatal accidents in Chennai, of which the incident involving Sruthi, a child studying in Zion Matriculation School who fell through a hole on the floor of the bus and died, is the most prominent. In that particular case, the RTO was clearly at fault, as it had issued a Fitness Certificate for the vehicle only recently.

Then there was the CMRL crane accident which killed one and injured many. Two people were immediately arrested for this, including the site manager of Larsen and Toubro.

The key question in such incidents is about negligence or refusal to heed warnings of safety risks. That has to be proved using transparent, credible investigation. Some of the worst and highly visible negligence is attributable to official agencies in charge of safety. Examples are RTOs, Lift Inspectorate, and Food Safety authorities, who are openly corrupt and yet have no real liability when things go wrong.

It is important to point out that criminalising everything will leave high-risk jobs such as swimming instructors open only to those with the strongest politician-police-underworld connections, and not serve the cause of children’s safety, because such individuals cannot be touched even they have been negligent or motivated. The better choice would be to professionalise the system, empower and train in disaster management, before demanding accountability.

The Hindu’s editorial advocates ‘Free medicines as a mission’

This editorial in The Hindu, following up earlier ones on Universal Health Coverage through a tax-funded system, appeared in print and online editions today.

The Hindu : Opinion / Editorial : Free medicines as a mission.

Participate in the discussion on the article page with your own comments.

Spending for a healthy India – Tamil podcast on higher GDP expenditure for universal healthcare

The Hindu published an editorial titled Spending for a healthy India on March 9, 2012 highlighting the importance of tax-based universal healthcare by 2017. That should be the goal of the Twelfth Plan. The aim is to reduce out-of-pocket spending on healthcare that is pushing many Indians into poverty – simply because a massive health setback forces them to sell assets and use all savings to meet the costs of healthcare in costly, for-profit hospitals.

Today, the newspaper has a podcast of a translation of the editorial on its website here. This is one of the most important items on the agenda of health economists and activists in the country. Dr. K. Srinath Reddy, the cardiologist and moving force behind the Public Health Foundation of India, led a High Level Experts Group which reported to the Planning Commission on the issue. They have a report which is as significant to India, as the Beveridge report that led to the formation of the National Health Service was to the UK.

Unless Indians acknowledge and work for universal healthcare, the same fear of pauperisation that stalked Britons in the horror of World War II, will continue to haunt millions in India. Private health insurance has proved to be a failure as the main financing mechanism in the United States, and can work even less in a low-income economy such as India.  Creating a good tax-funded public health system is vital to reduce chronic illness, and thus save funds now spent on treatments for nation-building activity.

EXCLUSIVE : Ramky Enviro must set up toll-free garbage complaints line in Chennai

Setting up a grievance redressal-cum-monitoring cell to receive complaints relating to garbage is among the conditions  in the legal agreement signed by the Corporation of Chennai and Ramky Enviro Engineers for collection, segregation, transportation and disposal of municipal waste in new zones IX, X and XIII.

Although such a condition was included in the agreement with Neel Metal Fanalca earlier, it was not operationalised by the Corporation.

In the case of Ramky Enviro, the company is required to operate a toll-free telephone line for addressing citizens’ grievances.  The full copy of the agreement obtained by this blog under the Right to Information Act stipulates that the Concessionaire must meet other conditions also to arrive at the “Gross Admissible Payment”.

Other key aspects of the CoC – Ramky Enviro agreement are:

The handling of garbage will be monitored with a “visual aspect” involving photography of specific sites and some randomly chosen sites.

Ramky Enviro must follow the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000

The Concessionaire must use compactor vehicles, and tricycles for doorstep collection of waste duly segregated.

CoC will form dedicated teams of officials comprising Executive Engineers of the zones for the area covered, who will be headed by the Zonal Officer – designated as Project Officer to implement the Agreement provisions.

The scope of work requires Ramky Enviro to perform door-to-door collection of segregated MSW, including but not limited to residential houses, flats/apartments, group houses, commercial complexes, slums/slum tenements, institutions, places of worship, slaughter houses, makets, office complexes and beach service roads and any other roads specifically directed by CoC.

Collection and transportation of segregated bio-degradable and non-biodegradable wastes without mixing, to transfer stations or directly for disposal to designated dumping grounds.

Road/street sweeping with brooms, brushes and collection, removal, transportation ad disposal of road dust and transportation of silt deposited during de-silting of storm water drains as per the specific written request by the Project Officer, but shall not include collection, removal, transportation and disposal of debris, construction and demolition debris and mud earth.

Removal of dead animals and cow dung

Performance of services in the proposed zones conforming to the provisions of MSW Rules 2000 as amended from time to time.

“Segregation” is defined in the Agreement as having the meaning ascribed under the MSW Rules 2000, i.e., to separate the MSW into groups of organic, inorganic, recyclables, and hazardous wastes and includes segregation of MSW by the waste collectors engaged by the concessionaire from households while receiving MSW from the households.

Period of Concession to Ramky Enviro Engineers

The Agreement states that the concession is granted for a period of seven years commencing from the CoD (Commencement Operations Date) and ending on the Expiry Date. In the event of termination,the concession period shall mean and be limited to the period commencing from the CoD and ending with the termination date.

Gross Admissible Payment (GAP)

The Gross Admissible Payment is arrived at in three parts as described below:

Part I – Quantitative Payment: It comprises of first 50 per cent of the Gross payment to the concessionaire. It is arrived by assessing the total weight of the MSW disposed of in the landfill site after meeting alll the agreement conditions. The tipping fee will be multiplied by the TPD and 50 per cent of it is the Gross Admissible Payment, Part I.

The remaining two parts are for the 50 per cent remaining payment. It is based on the weightage obtained through Qualitative Assessment. It is arrived in 2 parts (Part II and Part III) 25 per cent each.

Part II – (25 per cent) – Visual Qualitative Assessment : The 25 per cent bill amount will be worked out based the weightage obtained by the Concessionaire in the monthly abstract format for the qualitative performance of the concessionaire for visual aspects of work.It is assessed through the photographs captured in designated locations as mentioned in the article number 8.3.1 of the concession agreement. Annexure II contains daily calculation format of Annexure IV contains monthly weightage deduction format for Part II (25 per cent) payment.

Part III  (25 per cent) – Last and remaining 25 per cent bill amount will be worked out based on the weightage obtained by the Concessionaire in the monthly abstract foormat for the quality of deployment. This part is based on the evaluation of the vehicle march out, response to public complaints and MSW transport in haulage vehicles etc as shown in the illustration in Annexure VI.

Grievance Redressal cell-cum-Monitoring Centre

The centre with a toll free telephone line will be manned from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and should be automated to record grievances at all other times.

Any grievance so received between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. shall be treated as the complaint received on that day and shall be rectified by the concessionaire wiithin 6 Project Design Specification (PDS) approved hours of the receipt of such grievances at the grievance cell. Any grievance no redressed within 6 hours on receipt of the same will be subjected to qualitative performance evaluation.

There shall be levied no penalty for non-redressal of complaints within 6 hours for the initiative calendar month of the concession period if the concerned Project Officer is of the opinion that it is necessary during the transition /takover period of concession work.

Such grievance cell shall be monitored by the Project Officer or any other officer authorized by him in this behalf vide Annexure III-A

It shall be the responsibility of the Concessionaire to prove each and every complaint is recorded and remedied. The decision of the CoC on the point that whether a complaint is redressed or not is final and binding on the Concessionaire.

In case if the Concessionaire claim that a particular complaint received in the complaint cell could not be redressed at all or till a particular period, the decision of the Project Officer is final and binding as to the nature of the complaint that it could be redressed or could not be redressed.

Performance Evaluation

The Qualitative Performance evaluation of work will be done on a daily basis and abstract of the monthly performance evaluation of Concessionaire for qualitative evaluation will be arrived at in Annexure IV and V.

The qualitative evaluation of work will be carried out in two aspects. First, is evaluation on visual aspects and the second is based on vehicle deployment, manpower deployment, materials deployment,and other aspects.


There will be penalties or fines for the default or deficiency of serviceby the Concessionaire for various types of deficiencies broadly classified as major and minor penalties. The penalties are specified on the percentage of monthly gross bill amount admitted for making payment to the Concessionaire.

Major penalty

Failure to redress a complaint for more than 48 hours-upto 10 complaints 0.5 per cent
above 10 complaints 1 per cent
In case vehicle is found carrying debris / silt-2 per cent
Complete failure to collect and transport waste/day-1 per cent
Failure to provide uniform to workers, drivers, cleaners- 0.5 per cent
Failure to provide safety gear to staff, employees-0.5 per cent
Failure to register public complaints-0.5 per cent
Not maintaining transfer stations, workshops
labour rest rooms- 0.5 per cent

The penalty levy will be fixed every day by the Project Officer of the concerned zones for minor as well as major and will be restricted to 10 per cent put together and monthly abstract will be prepared for levy of penalty for major and minor will be restricted to 10 per cent.