Clean India Initiative: Building the Case for Project Management Office

Clean India Initiative: Building the Case for Project Management Office

Most intolerable things about India – the filth, lack of civic amenities and civic sense. In spite of rising incomes in terms of currency, it remains among toughest places to live and low on human development factor.

Indian leadership has rightly taken up the cause of clean India. It had great kick off. It excited lot of people. The people , for once, thought that the filth can possibly be cleaned, some day.


There is good awareness. There is willingness. Also school kids seem to be growing in the culture of staying clean. However there are some glaring issues in the approach taken so far:

1. Activism can only be for awareness: So far, mainly, activism is done. People volunteer to pick up the broom and clean themselves. Activism is good for one-time awareness.

Sustainable system requires everyone doing their jobs. The municipal workers need to clean with right equipment. Technologist should be inventing systems to help cleanliness. The industries should be manufacturing the cleaning products. Auto organization CEO should bring out vehicles which can transport waste efficiently etc. Researchers should be inventing processes to dispose better.

Everyone doing public sweeper job may not be practical. Everyone must play their role. All these roles need to get highlighted.

2. No System in Place for Waste Collection/Disposal nor Any Sign of Approach Towards It

Just taking the example of solid waste management in urban areas .. Bangalore city administration is too proud that they are a dustbin-free city! Since the surroundings of  dust get dirty, they got rid of public dustbins altogether!. Now everyone walking on streets throw filth on the streets. Then there are cities with dustbins but with no further disposal. Further, there are overloaded garbage disposal vehicles spilling along the way.

There is no guideline or managed debate on process/technologies of waste disposal/processing. This comes in way of waste segregation at source itself. (There is Swachch Bharath debate in forum, but not sure how govt intends to use the discussion output)

While people get educated about cleanliness, the supporting infrastructure to stay clean needs to exist. Else, the awareness drive will go waste.

While this example was only about urban solid waste management, there are many other types in similar or worse state.

3. Standardization

Different states and cities seem to be approaching cleanliness issue in their own way(ex: waste segregation and processing) and are driving in different directions. The pollution boards seem to be ineffective due to all the constraints.

With large floating population, it is impossible to educate everyone on local ways of waste disposal and re-train in different cities/states and in unnecessary. Once there are standards, it is easy to do ranking of states/cities in order to exert right thrust.

For the industries and entrepreneurs, it is essential get a sense of govt’s direction. Having the direction of standardization will help to assess the overall market. This helps in building business cases for technology research and for product/service investments. Without that, it is hard to bet money by business community, nor few years of life for the entrepreneurs.

4. Lack of Holistic Planning and Lack of Timelines for Intermediate Steps

Big hopes could turn into big disappointments in no time. For a long term big goal, intermediate successes and timelines are necessary. This sets the right expectations on themselves and on the system.

5. Many Issues Due to Lack of Coordination Across Different Departments

Government is a very complex organization. The government of the entire country includes many governments of states, cities and the central government.

This is organization of many organizations, with each having their own value system and diverse set of constraints.Very natural to expect coordination issues. There are extremely complex coordination issues.  Various departments need to coordinate with others in the same government. Also governments need to coordinate with other governments in multiple ways.

There is a need to have vigilance/audit of coordination itself as a focus area.

6. Planning of Future Urbanization

With growing economy, many cities/towns are growing. There is hardly any planning or regulation. No thoughts on waste management. With each passing day, the existing issues get compounded and get more expensive to deal with. Holistic regulation for future construction is either not communicated or is not thought of yet.


7. Effective Communication

With a complex and challenging goal, communication becomes key. Beating cynicism, spreading success stories, communicating timelines, communicating in many languages of the country etc. is a huge communication job. This involves B2B, B2C, government to government, govt to people, govt to businesses, govt to research community etc.

For common citizens, cleanliness being a matter of identity will be essential to make the initiative work. It needs to lot of work insert this value into the religious, linguistic and regional mainstreams.

While there was good awareness communication, the further details are hardly communicated.

The optimists say – Do not complain yet. This is only beginning. It will take time. Results will come…

Yes. It is early complain. However, with the approach so far, it gives not so high confidence.  Also consider the full scope.. It further diminishes the hope.

Scope of the Job Is HUGE

It touches many different ecosystems:

  • Urban infrastructure, Operations, including waste management
  • Operations of Industrial waste
  • Transportation Eco systems
  • Rural Ecosystems
  • Water bodies like lakes, rivers

Each of the ecosystem mentioned above, need to think about the focus areas such as –

  • Country-wide standards for waste segregation in all of the eco systems.
  • Regulations to avoid contamination at source, reduce waste creation
  • Waste collection, segregation, transportation, processing, recycling, energy regeneration
  • Hosting debate and driving agreements acceptable to all relevant stakeholders
  • Transparency through IT automation
  • Entrepreneurship development in waste management  and R&D

The scope is too huge. The scale is too huge. The stakeholders are countless. All citizens in all of the segments mentioned above, those who do business with India, volunteers/NGOs who want to contribute, bureaucracy, entrepreneurs and many more.

The Project Management Office – Governing council to steer clean India Initiative

Managing the scope described above needs a qualified organization to act as governing council.  It can play multiple roles – advisory/reviewer/auditor/direct responsible depending upon the topic. This organization needs to be formed by sourcing from all the kinds of stakeholders – govt officials from different states/geographies, industry veterans from different industry segments, research community with specialization in different phases of cleanliness cycle, relevant technologies, mainstream media professionals, social media professionals/bloggers etc. Along with them, a few qualified project managers. All these need to have this as full time job.

In project management terminology, such a body would be called as PMO (Project Management Office). This PMO needs to function under the PMO (Prime Ministers Office). It shall be a ‘cross functional entity’ connecting all the stakeholders. Over an year or two, it can stabilize.


How Will Creating Another Structure Guarantee Success ?  Why Will It Help?

First- it will not guarantee success. It will only improve the degree of success.

Secondly, the charter/goals of such PMO can give an idea of its usefulness. It can address the issues described earlier. In addition –

a. Act as catalyst for driving new work culture

For an organization of 300,000 people, it takes min 2-3 years to bring any change, as explained by a CEO. For government with several times this size, it could be lot more. Unless this happens till the last municipal worker, people can not see the change in day to day cleanliness. This could take a cross-functional organization to drive this.

b. Parallel way of getting inputs and resolving – Example, state govt pollution control boards may need help in multiple areas. Some of the issues may be blind spots for themselves. Review by a central competent group may help to bring out issues and solutions, which the existing formal structure may not.

c. Competency in private government collaboration –

There are many who want to volunteer to help the initiative. They just do not know how to engage the government. Also there are many NGOs who are serving in their own ways. Setting direction, channelizing the volunteering energy, coordinating with industry in the business of cleanliness, technology development etc. may not be in the active scope of any of the existing structures.

d.  Managing Vagueness –  Project management role involves many competencies relevant for succeeding in a complex, not so well defined challenges like this. Very good project managers have combination of skills in dealing with people/organization/social dynamics, managing scope, defining what to expect, managing technology, communication and many more.

The project management models like PMBOK provide base models to approach this initiative much more professionally than it is done now.

Hopefully, government takes note and things change for better.

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Marshall Gass
Marshall Gass
5 years ago

This article is a spot-on assessment of the way India must progress forward. How it can be translated to the grassroot level is another question. I see the pure science in this way of thinking and a plan that is workable.

It can be done and implemented in stages. Nothing is impossible with a common will.
Let’s Hope we hear more of this sort of intelligent thinking and planning.

I hope to forward this article to as many people concerned for its integrity and common sense.