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Indore, Bhopal: Unexpected Cleanliness

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Indore and Bhopal along with Chandigarh emerged as top three cleanest cities in the country following declaration of Swachh Survekshan 2018. During her last visit to Indore and Bhopal, Gurgaon based Rajini Bala was amazed at the level of cleanliness in both the cities. “I need to pinch myself to believe it,” she said. Here is a first-person account of her impressions.


On my way to Indore in the middle of April this year, I thought of first visiting Bhopal.

The very name of Bhopal brought in a lot of thoughts to my mind. The city of the first BHEL, Gas tragedy, Museums, and the Upper Lake or Bada Talab as the locals call it.

My imagination of cities in the middle of our country not having a sea or high-altitude mountains nearby would relatively be hotter than other cities. I also was of the opinion that these cities may not be in the favourable path of monsoon rains. But to my utter surprise the weather was reasonably pleasant. But the major surprise was the way this city is kept clean. The streets were clean without much of a litter. My idea of seeing a lot of litter along the beautiful walking path around the Bhojtal lake also turned out to be false. There seems to be a discipline that is very natural. Or is it the way the Municipality is dealing with waste management. Either way Bhopal seemed very clean.

First, we visited Bharat Bhavan, an autonomous multi art cultural centre. It is one of the best places for the performing artists of our country to showcase their talents. This place stands out being designed by the great Architect Charles Correa. Being set on the lakefront it is a sprawling space with a spacious museum of different art forms.

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“When I pointed out a piece of bread on the platform, the cleaners without muttering a word, came forward and cleaned the place.”


My visit around the Zoo along the lake was interesting and very pleasant. A great place to walk around peacefully. There was no litter or foul smell. The place was very clean. Other places like the National Museum of Anthropology, the Tribal Museum, Sanchi Stupa at Vidisha, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the caves of Bhimbetka on the Vindhya Hills, which I visited are maintained immaculately clean, making a very pleasant experience.

“Being in Indore was another wonderful experience. Since visiting the city a few years back, a big change has happened in Indore. No garbage to be spotted at any of the side paths or street corners. Maybe I have to be watchful to see if any plastic bags are flying by or empty water bottles and beverage bottles strewn around. No, no and no!! How did this happen? Answers poured in from so many quarters. Plastic bags have been banned. No wonder that all the vendors have made alternative arrangements. Many were carrying their own bags to the shops to get, vegetable or fruits or grocery. We are going back to our age-old practices which were cleaner, non-destructive, non-polluting and bio degradable choices. And no one seems to be complaining. It seems to be becoming a habit. I am surprised. Is it the initiative of the people or the government that brought in such a change? Or maybe the spirit of both to win the laurels of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. One leading and guiding the other.

I came to know that the Municipality has initiated many steps to achieve this goal. They have started door to door collection of waste. No plastic garbage bags are used. If anyone gives the garbage in a plastic bag the garbage collector politely tells them not to give in plastic bags. If the concerned resident doesn’t heed he immediately calls his higher authority giving the details of the resident. Immediately he is authorised to give a challan of a fixed amount around `500 in this case to the resident and doesn’t leave the place till the money is collected. The garbage collector also gets convinced and motivated to perform once given some powers to execute in the right way. This enables learning for him as well as knowledge sharing among his community. Effective monitoring and execution is the key to success.

I did see many covered vehicles carrying the waste. I was told this is being done to avoid pilferage, spill over and obnoxious odour. I didn’t have to pinch my nose.

They have initiated waste division into wet and dry at the source itself making it a great measure reducing the pile up on landfills. A lot of coaxing, motivation and fines have definitely brought in good results. Even when I came into the city late in the night I couldn’t see garbage strewn anywhere around. The Mithai Shop had kept different coloured waste bins for different types of waste. The cart vendors have hung bins on the side of the cart.

Finally while catching an early morning train, I was thinking surely the Railway Station may not be clean. To my utter surprise, the station was spick and span. I was looking for a fruit vendor. But I couldn’t find one in the entire station. No wonder there were no mosquitoes or flies or bees anywhere. Of course there were biscuits and packed snacks available. There was no mess in the station in spite of a number of travellers. Not only was the Station clean, even the tracks were indeed very clean. The authorities have rearranged and renovated the station with clean restaurant area, water vending machines, waiting rooms and most importantly the rest rooms too.

It was indeed a pleasure to have visited a beautiful city with wide well-manicured roads without potholes, bold Sign boards denoting the way to different locations, nice round about and cross roads. The green cover along the roads and on the road, dividers is a step towards larger green cover.

Really a mood boosting experience. I was thanking my stars not to have come upon the same bad experience I had a few years back.

I also got an opportunity to spend four hours at Bhopal railway station on my way back from Indore Express around 11 am. Decided to stay in the AC waiting room to catch the Shatabdi to Delhi at around 3 pm. I thank myself for this decision which turned out to be a pleasurable experience.

Right from the time we got down from the train, we felt very good. The porter was very polite and took us to the waiting room promising to come back to help us board the train again. Both the platforms and the rooms were very clean, with shining seats and spick & span toilets. One thing that is commendable is the spotless cleanliness maintained in all the quarters of the Station. A short time after we entered the waiting rooms, two workmen came in along with a big cleaning machine. One was sweeping manually. They were very polite with the people. He took the initiative of requesting the people sitting on the floor to move and he gently moved the children without disturbing their slumber. The people were also very cooperative. Both of them moved the aluminium seating structure to a side without making noise and cleaned the corners and walls. They did a thorough job. Even the people were carrying their own stainless-steel tiffin boxes, laying them on newspapers and serving on plates of leaf. After eating, they all deposited the waste in the right bins. I bought my lunch from the IRCTC canteen which was very clean, reasonably priced. The people were very decent and polite. The counters were also very clean. They packed my lunch in aluminium foil containers.

The station itself looked very clean and bright with beautiful paintings on the wall. They had drinking water vending machines. There was even a sanitary napkin vending machine.

The porter as per his promise came on time to meet us and was very helpful. Yes, the train was also very clean.

The overall experience was heartwarming with people with great attitude and the overall cleanliness and order that prevailed everywhere.

I would love to go back to the two cities again.

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I’ve lived in some of the cleanest cities in the world during my long stay abroad and I must tell you that the cleanliness levels in Indore and Bhopal give them a run for their money: Union Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs, Hardeep Puri


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