The Swachh Map app, launched by the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram in October 2016, has been found to be using fake images to notify users that the places marked as dirty by them have been cleaned up.
Hindustan Times uploaded 13 pictures of different garbage piles in five areas on the app on July 9. One of those spots was marked as clean by the MCG on July 10.
The response to the complaint via the app on July 12 —though the MCG is required to take action and respond within 24 hours — with pictures of six spic-and-span spots. HT revisited the spots three hours after receiving the response, and found that the ground situation was unchanged, with the garbage heap the same as before. “Your reported dirty place is cleaned now. Thank us by tweeting about it,” the app said.
The Swachh App was supposed to make the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) more accountable and let residents report problems such as garbage pile-ups, potholes, unclean toilets, open defecation and sewage leakage. It was launched in the city on October 2, 2016, and according to the Swachh App dashboard, complaints filed on the app have led to 2,290 spots being cleaned since. Only 70 more are awaiting a clean-up, it says.
Can the claims be taken at their face value?
Images of other spots had been uploaded on the app to notify users that the six locations spread over Sectors 50, 55 and 57 had been cleaned. Some of the garbage had been lifted from Sector 55, as verified by the supervisor of the area. Six spots, such as the ones in Sector 44 and Sector 30, were still marked as dirty 72 hours after the complaint.
Other users have noticed fake photos being used too. “I have been reporting on garbage pile-up for over a year and they either ignore the complaint or upload some other picture altogether. I have told MCG officials about this but to no avail,” Vibha Batra, a resident of Sector 30, said.
Another user, Sameera Satija, a resident of Sector 14, said, “I regularly use the app and the issue of images of some other place being put up has happened a few times.”
The fake images uploaded by the MCG were close-up shots of a concrete ground, with no discernible way of verifying whether it is the same area or not.
MCG commissioner Yashpal Yadav, asked for the location and pictures of the places to find out if the pictures were indeed fake. “People throw garbage even after cleaning. So, it is a continuous process,” he said, adding that he will inquire into the matter raised and take action.
“It (fake images) is not acceptable at any cost,” he said.
The supervisor of Sectors 55-56, Rakesh Kumar, claimed that the clean-up had been done in Sector 55 and the two photos uploaded by HT were different. But both pictures were taken at the same spot within a gap of three days. “
Vijay Kumar, one of the creators of the app that was sponsored by Intel CSR, said that he was aware of incorrect pictures being uploaded on the app by MCG staff. “It is infrequent, but last few months have been bad. This is what we want to stop. That’s why, all the data is publicly available to make authorities more accountable. We are going to add the phone numbers of supervisors on the app. Fake images being uploaded is a legitimate concern,” he said.