Indore municipal commissioner Pratibha Pal is an officer on a mission. She wants to take Indore to new heights. The roadmap is ready; implementation is on the anvil.
Transferred here in the first week of May when Covid-19 was playing havoc and Indore was among the top 10 cities in the country in maximum number of coronavirus cases, Pal has been going all guns blazing to deal with the deadly virus.
Working closely with district collector Manish Singh, she succeeded in bringing the cases down in the month of June but the infections are again on the rise. While the city continues to fight the battle against Covid-19, Free Press caught up with her for plans for Indore. Excerpts from her interview.
Despite restrictions being relaxed, Covid-19 cases were going down in June but the count suddenly went up in July. Why so?
The lockdown in April and May was total. When the unlocking began in a phased-wise manner in June, initially limited areas were opened. As more areas were allowed to open and operate, Covid-19 protocols like social distancing and wearing masks norms went for a six. Its impact was visible only after passing off 20 to 30 days that’s why we saw cases going up in July. However, the upward trend is not only in Indore but across the country. The good thing for Indore is that the positive rate is maintained which ranges between 5 and 6 per cent whereas fatality rate has dropped significantly. For instance, fatalities in June were 68, the figure which came down to around 25 in July. However, the active cases are on the rise. If people strictly follow social distancing and wear masks while outdoors, the graph will soon come down.
Like Bhopal, does Indore also need a re-lockdown to check hike in cases?
I don’t think so. Indore is the state’s commercial capital so many commercial and manufacturing activities take place here. Besides, locking down markets is not a proper and sustainable solution to Covid-19. Lockdown for time-being helps only in containing the burden in hospitals. Until the vaccine is developed and comes to market for sale, people should ensure that they come out of their houses only when it is necessary.
Why penalisation drive against Covidiots was stopped? Did IMC give in to political pressure?
Penalisation drive was undertaken by IMC on directives of district collector as he invoked Epidemic Act. But the fact remains that Covid-19 has badly affected the economic activities of many people; the worst-hit lot being the daily wagers. For their sake, we had toned down penalisation drive.
Your comment on the recent handcart 'overturning' (allegedly) by civic employees?
Social media is a tool which can make or break you. In this case, the latter happened. The incident was not as it was played out on social media. IMC employees had asked the egg-seller to keep his handcart mobile so that crowed did not gather at one place. As he moved from footpath to the road, he lost control over the handcart and it overturned. Our sympathy was still with the vendor as the poor man suffered the losses. IMC employees sometimes have to face the heat when they go on to implement rules. Not to forget that, IMC employees on the frontline against Covid-19 have been fighting for the past five months so people should respect them for it.
IMC pressed its sanitation workers also in the fight against Covid-19? Did that hit cleanliness measures in the city?
Initially, yes. The situation had worsened when sanitation workers could not come out of their houses as their colonies were declared containment zones. But with the decrease in containment zones, the situation has eased now. We are in the process of normalising things on the cleanliness front.
IMC sets example in India every year by doing something different on Swachhata front? What it is the plan for this year?
This year, we have taken two measures which are going to be our USPs. First, we are going to make five wards zero waste generating ones. We have identified these wards where our teams have started work. By October-end, we will manage to make two to three wards zero waste generating wards. Second, we are going to set up a bio-methylation plant which will dispose wet waste of 200 tonnes per day (TPD). It is going to be the largest biomethylation plant across Asia. By the end of this fiscal, we will go in for a 500-TDP capacity plant. Perhaps, then it will be the largest plant in the world. All the wet waste produced by the city will then be converted into bio-CNG and bio products at the facility. The CNG thus produced will be used to run public transportation.
Indore is solely depended on Narmada water. Is IMC planning a parallel water system?
Our plan currently is of augmentation of current water system right from pumping station to water treatment plant and then to city and change of distribution line. The project cost will be around Rs 650 crore. It has been planned considering Indore's population in 2050. Under AMRUT Phase-II, detailed project report has been sought by the government.
What are your plans for development of city?
Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) has set parameters for itself and rest of state that how a municipal commissioner and how a municipal corporation should work. In days to come, we will try to specially focus on smart city projects which are going to have long lasting impact on this city. We want to wind up the projects by the end fiscal 2020-21.
Besides, AMRUT projects are also very important for the city. One of the highly ambitious project is riverfront corridor. City is blessed with Kanh and Saraswati rivers which passes through the middle. By Feb end, we will complete nalluh tapping, sewerage treatment plant and horticulture and landscaping. The lost glory twin rivers will return when once rainwater flows next year.