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Cleanliness Confusion At Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games has started off with a bang. By the end of 10 days, all those talks of “unclean and unhygienic facilities” at the Games Village would have disappeared. However, CIJ feels that an opportunity to showcase India’s growing cleanliness and hygiene standards by the Indian Cleaning Industry was missed out, perhaps due to the collective failure of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee (OC) and various other coordinating agencies

 

Last November, when the Organising Committee of the CWG floated tenders for the cleaning of the CWG premises, at least 26 bidders from the cleaning industry participated. Like in every other government contract, the tenders for the maintenance of the various premises were invited in the L1 category (lowest cost bidder). Of the 26 odd, three or four of them bagged the contracts. The criteria of selecting a bidder, apart from L1, are largely a “mystery”

Points to ponder: Besides, what were the criteria of the quotes made by the 26-odd bidders? At a place where manpower costs alone could run into nothing less than र1.2 crores, contracts have been awarded to bidders quoting 30-40% lower than the actual costs! What standards of cleaning could one expect at such low costs? Was the cleaning industry consulted while drawing the tender format?

Analysts say one of the main problems is the procedure of assigning contracts for all projects, including cleaning regardless of their size to the lowest bidders. Contractors also sometimes take short-cuts when they’re running over-budget or running out of time. This often translates into sub-standard structures and this problem would remain even if the oft-cited difficulties of getting land and necessary bureaucratic clearances are solved.

This August, reports said that only two stadiums (of the 11) were complete and the residential towers were far behind completion. Of the 26 bidders, three cleaning service providers who were awarded the L1 contract had to begin housekeeping of the respective premises by April. But the projects were still under construction and the latest deadlines verging to just two weeks before the Games! In this rush to keep up new deadlines, several construction workers lost their lives, work was sub-standard and much was left unfinished. The responsibility of the colossal task of shifting construction debris from the site which lay with the builder was passed on to the housekeeping.

Points to ponder: Were the housekeeping companies competent or trained to shift construction debris? Did they have the manpower and the equipment to do this kind of a job? But when it came to doing a job which was not their core competence and yet they volunteered to clear the debris, it turned into a fiasco. Well, this happens only in India!

When it came to salvaging the situation, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) workers were called in to clear the debris and clean the roads. Why weren’t they called earlier? Well, did these safai karmacharis do housekeeping? Far from it, NDMC refused to clean up the toilets which had paan stains, faeces, uncleared debris… “filthy and stinking” probably would be right words to describe them, said a report.

Cleaning experts say, it’s not the housekeeping job to clear construction debris. Given the time frame and delay in erecting the structure, the construction team did not have the time to clear the debris which would take anywhere between 30 to 45 days to clear, post construction. Housekeeping begins work only after the construction workers have finished and the soft furnishings have also been installed. While NDMC refused to clean toilets because its staff was not trained to do housekeeping, the cleaning service contractors took on the job of clearing construction debris which again was not their job.

Besides, are street sweeping and housekeeping similar jobs? It’s time it is defined to the concerned.

In the last few weeks before the Games, when the government pressed the panic button, and anybody and everybody stepped in to “save the nation’s pride” (which had been blown to shreds by the national and international media), the cleaning industry players pulled out their workforce from other sites to the rescue of the CWG. Irrespective of L1 or L2 or L3, the OC called every additional hand to do the clean up. The service providers have provided their best to meet international standards to the satisfaction of the occupants of the Games Village. Will they get paid for their services? And, if yes, will it be on the basis of L1 or L2 or L3?

Apart from the service providers, more than 1000 NDMC and MCD sanitation workers involved in the clean-up operations, were pumping out water from the basement area of the residential towers in the Games Village! The reason cited for the water was the rising water levels of the Yamuna river. Around 15 lifts were non-operational too. Unusually, Delhi received heavy rainfall in years which added to the fiasco. Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which is responsible for the maintenance of the basement, claimed there was no water logging!

Points to ponder: Did the Organising Committee foresee such a misadventure? Was the OC prepared at all? When CIJ approached the OC authorities to understand the cleaning requirement of the CWG, they were meted with replies like “we have a procedure of tenders and the contracts have been given out. There is not much I can tell you.” Over and above were statements issued by high government authorities stating that “a bit of unclean premises is nothing to be complained about”. And when CWG officials make statements like “our standards of cleanliness are not the same as others”, it only adds insult to injury. Work is not completed on time. Workmen do not clean up after they have finished. And ultimately someone else takes the blame for a job undone?

No wonder not just the athletes and delegates, but also the common security men, volunteers and other workers were subjected to “inhospitable conditions”. In the absence of adequate sanitary facilities, the police and security men were forced to use the walls. There were only 100 mobile toilets for more than 3200 security guards at the Games Village. Even the existing loos were not usable as they were dirty most of the time. The OC had initially forgotten about the sanitary requirements and only when the issue was raised in one of the meetings that tenders were floated to buy portable toilets.

Points to ponder: Organising such a mega event is definitely not a trial and error operation, but were the right people involved in the planning of the cleaning operations? Did the cleaning industry approach the OC to apprise them of the requirement of maintaining such an event? Why was the Cleaning Industry’s expertise not taken into account in the initial stages itself?

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