data, cleanliness, swachh bharat, mobile

The Problem

In India, “Safai Karamcharis” refer to the group of public workers responsible for street sweeping and garbage picking. The public worker system in India lacks an incredibly important component – incentives for good performance. People tend to perform better when recognized for their good performance.  While this is a well-embraced concept in the corporate world globally, public sector in developing countries often remain behind.

In 2012, SocialCops began its first pilot in Municipal Ward number 103 (Punjabi Bagh) – the home to 140,000 citizens of New Delhi. The problem statement being worked on by a group of stakeholders including the municipal councillor & the local citizens group – Lets Do It! Delhi was – how to improve the sanitation & street cleanliness in the Municipal Ward.

Our Solution

Data Collection

Rating systems are common in industries such as food. In India & around the world, companies such as Zomato and Yelp allow citizens to rate restaurants on a scale.

We brought the same concept to the public system – wherein citizens rated the cleanliness of their streets on a scale of 1-10 on a weekly basis. Given it was our first pilot (when it was just our two founders) – we used a mix of technologies including IVRS & paper based collection to collect data.

[Yes – it was when we collated this data on paper, that we personally experienced the pains of paper based data collection. If we were to do it today, it would take us 2 mins to create an awesome mobile app survey using Collect!]

Data Analysis

The data was collected for two months on a weekly basis – every data point was tagged to a particular citizen who was tagged to a street.

This data was accumulated and simple statistics could identify the streets that were consistently the cleanest. Thus, the cleanest five streets of the Municipal Ward were identified. This data was then used to identify the “Best Karamcharis (Workers) for the Month” to be awarded to the Top 5 consistent performers over the two months.


Post the first award ceremony, the sanitation inspector reported increased attendance rates & better morale. The pilot also proved to be an interesting anectode on human behaviour. In those few days before the first awards were given out, we witnessed:

Increased Competitiveness

The excitement from the Karamcharis reached a focal point two days before the event. Citizens began to call us to tell us about Karamcharis who had gotten so competitive about the award that they started knocking on citizen doors asking for “recommendation letters”!

Money -> Trophies : Recognition Speaks

In another interesting experience, the Karamcharis approached the local citizen group to demand “trophies” and a “certificate from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi” instead of the monetary awards we had planned for them. Definitely an interesting anecdote to disprove Maslow’s Law.

“We are the garbage pickers… Nobody ever notices us, ma’am. I have been working here for 20 years and my son never knew what I do. Today, you have made my son proud of me. Thank you!”

Mukesh, Safai Karamchari