On October 1, the highly optimistic ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Mission) has completed one year. But nothing much have changed visibly in our cities, towns and villages. Neither in our mindset or practices.
Factually speaking, so far, just 20-25% of the target in toilet construction has been achieved in the country, whareas regarding waste management , the results are even less satisfacory.
We are not pessimistic. But there should be more seriousness and pro active attitude at the ground level, beyond photo op sessions and earning brownie points!
We should end our casual “Chalta Hai” attitude , in this regard and take a holistic, compltete 360 degree approach, ensuring accountancy at every level.
Are We Indians in Love To Live With Filth ?
Traditionally speaking, no. It’s not so.
Because, all over India, in the villages or in the towns, you will always see, the women folk devotedly keeping their homes, hearths and courtyards spick and span, continously sweeping and washing them,since morning. Cleaning of the body and one’s surroundings are the very first duties of a person, after waking up, early in the morning, in the ageold Indian tradition.
It is always believed that, Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, never enters a place, which is not clean.
During Diwali worship,Jhadoo or broom is also worshipped in India households. Perhaps this symbolises the clealiness of the house and its surroundings.
But one thing has to be made clear here that, the very word, “Swachhata” in context to cleanliness is alien to Indian culture.
The word here is “Shuchi” or ” Shaucha”, which is a holistic approach of life.
“Shaucha” literally means, cleanliness and purity both, in Indian concept. One is inseperable from the other.
The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali says:
“सत्त्वशुद्धिसौमनस्यैकाग्र्येन्द्रियजयात्मदर्शनयोग्यत्वानि च” I
Shaucha gives rise to purity of mind, contentment,concentration , conquering of the senses and competency to attain Atma-Darshana (Self Realisation).
Here Shuchi or Shaucha not only refers to the cleanliness of the ones surroundings, but also to the cleanliness of body and mind. Because we ourselves are not aliens in nature, we are an integal part of this eco-system, in totality.
Shaucha in context of a devotee or disciple, is mentioned in the ‘Yoga Sutra’, not only cleaning of the body, but also of one’s attitude,thoughts, attachnents, aspirations and behaviour.
Hence, Cleanliness is not just an alienated concept, related to cleanliness of the surroundings or the hygiene of the body, it’s also the cleanliness of thoughs, actions, speech and behaviour. And it is considered as an obligation, a basic duty of every person.
अहिंसा सत्यम् अस्तेयं शौचम् इन्द्रियनिग्रहः |
एतं सामासिकं धर्मं चातुर्वर्ण्ये अब्रवीन् मनुः ||
As per Manusmriti : Nonviolence, Truth, Non-Stealing, Cleanliness,Purity and Control over Oneself are the duties that are common for all The four Varnas, so declares Manu.
The ‘Bhoomi Sukta’ of ‘Atharva Veda’ narrates about our environment in details, which defines our relation with the nature and our role to keep it pristine and perfect.
It narrates about our duty against indiscriminate destruction of natural resources, imbalance in our needs and greeds and there environmental consequences.
Swacch in traditional Indian concept is not just cleanliness, but clarity or transperancy, an attribute, not the core of the idea. The holistic thought is of Shuchi and Saucha, that is not just sweeping or about defecation practices, but a complete philosophy.
It’s an attitude followed by actions that assures, cleanliness of one’s ownness, the body and the mind, as well as the surroundings and environment.
Is ‘Swachhata’ a Western Idea?
Everyone talks about it, how western countries are clean and garbage free ! No doubt, the technology has improved, cleaning and waste disposal has become a big business there.
In our country too, big hotels or airports have now imported big automatic machines from Germany and UK, to keep their premises clean.
But go to their kitchen and see how the food items there are kept in the deep freezers for aeon, even the surplus food, only to be heated and served later, using microwave ovens.
Traditionally in India, the idea of freezer was alien even half a century ago. Food were always freshly cooked and served. Leftover food was given to dogs or to the scavenger birds like crows.
In western homes,you will see, how rolls and rolls of tissue papers are used instead of running water in the toilets , and thrown into the trash bin near the commode.
Peole openly blow their nose in their hankies, and put it in their pockets.
Ladies often clean their make ups, in their privacy, using pure saliva.
Daily bathing was an alien idea, in most of Europe. Even today, after the easy accesibility to hot water, its not a very frequent practice, except in a few hotter countries kile Spain or Portugal.
The entier perfume industry of France, flourished on the practice of suppressing body odour, due no long non-ablution!
In India, bathing and clean clothes are a pre requisite of entering the sanctum sanctorum of a temple. You have to keep your shoes ouside. But in Europe, you can easily enter a Church for worship, even you have not bathed or cleansed yourself even for a week or more. Wearing soiled shoes make no difference.
But in many places in Europe and USA, you have to keep your shoes outside. When you enter a place where super computers or precision instruments are kept,its mandatory, fearing dust and pollutants harming the systems.
In the medieval period, London was the filthiest capital of Europe. Even the novels of Charles Dickens, written a century back, will vouch for this reality. The city had the bouts of endemic Bubonic Plague, during this period, which had killed a large number of its population.
In France, Marie Antoinette,made it notorious, speaking generally about repulsive body odour of the common people.
In Germany, where most of the people were living in the rural areas, before the industrial revolution, the villages were full of litters, stray dogs, pigs and chickens roaming around devouring, snipping into filth. People, including the womenfolk relieving in the open countryside was quite common.
In the USA, its usually, a sweeping under the carpet phenomenon , thats goes with the idea of cleanliness.
Many of their underdeveloped localities populated by the blacks and the Latinos, can be compared with that of third world ghettos, easily!
India As A Litter Bin!
Three years back, the then tourism Minister K. Chiranjeevi extensively toured the south east Asian countries, promoting India as a tourist attraction, specially among the large number of potential Buddhist tourists.
Most of the Buddhist tourists from these countries generally visit Bodhgaya in Bihar and Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh.
But the Minister had to face an unpleasant truth.
Many tourists from these countries who had visited India, at least once, complained to him: For us visiting India is a dream! Everything, every place related with Lord Buddha is holy to us. Apart from the mementos, many of us bring back soils from the holy places attached to Buddha and keep them in our places of worship.
But Minister, we are very much pained to see that Indians are regularly relieving themselves, in those places, openly, without any hesitation”!
The Minister had no answer!
We call the Ganges, the holiest river. But it is quite visible , how filthy the river has become, along it’s course.
In UP and Bihar, even today you will find spittoons under the office tables. Where Babus, will spit after chewing Paan, Tobacco or Gutka off and on, lifting them at a height nearing their mouth!
Wash basins, staircases, porticos, everywhere, you will find the tell tale sign of spitting.
If you travel by a public bus anywhere in India, or by a suburban train, you will find people are eating pea nuts , orange or like and throwing every piece of shell or peels on the floor, with impunity. If you protest, you are the odd man out!
Even in the posh colonies, the municipal trash collectors are seen only a few days before the civic election. A private trash a collector comes to collect Kuda, door to door, everyday. He charges a meagre sum in lieu, 100 or 200 bucks a month. But some people are too casual…
I often come back late at night. And too often find the rich households tossing heavy packets of trash, up in the air from their balconies, which eventually land on the forlorn colony roads.
People throwing out empty cold drinks and beer cans, empty pizza boxes or crampled food packets right on the roads, from their cars, is also a common scene, during the nightly hours.
Why Swachh Bharat Abhiyan Is Not Clicking
On 1 October this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much hyped flagship programme, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, completed one year. But this year the enthusisam is publicly missing.
Last year we had seen, from Bollywood filmstars to cricketers, politicians to top bureaucrats, everyone out on the street with a broom and the followers. Mostly they were just symbolic or photo op types, the whole year has enough proof of that. Nothing much has progressed, except the building of toilets in the villages, which the previous UPA government was also doing, with enthusiasm.
Indian roads and localities are as filthy as ever, the rivers are virtual garbage dumps, just like earlier. People are spitting and pissing in public without any hitch.Filthy roadside food joints are popping up everyday, even many of them are in the vicinity of India’s most prestigious ‘All India Institute of Medical Sciences’, or New Delhi Railway Station, littering and dumping the garbage right on the spot, evidently with ample police and Municipal patronage and enough palm-greasing.
The railway stations are continuously follwing a class discrimation policy. In the upper class waiting rooms they are providing toilet facilities, but for the ordinary classes, either there is none, or there are hellish pits for such purpose. Don’t go further, check with the busy Indore railway junction.
Is just sweeping of the streets with long brooms is ultimate in cleanliness!
Who is accountable to whom? The Babus, the Politicians, the People,the Litterbugs and the Polluters!
If there is any law relating littering and polluting, where is the implementation? Where is the law enforcement?
Coming back to the real problem. If the current 62 million tonnes annual generation of waste continues to be dumped without treatment, it will need 3,40,000 cubic metres of landfill space everyday (1240 hectares per year).
Considering the projected waste generation of 165 million tonnes by 2030, the requirement of land for setting up landfill for 20 years (Considering 10 metre high waste pile) could be as high as 66,000 hectares of precious land.
What the Government is thinking or doing about it!
According to a survey by ‘Times of India’, 71% people have said the the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ has hardly made any real impact,in our life or in our localities, in the span of a whole year.
With the absence of a pragmatic and pro active implementation policy,without proper accountability, the dispassionate bureaucracy at the helm , lack of modern waste disposal methods, lackadaisical people’s response and our natural inertia, these are the main obstacles…in the way of it’s success.
If the entire mission is not seen in a totality, with day to day public awareness and accountability, it will become just another tall claim like ‘garibi hatao’!
Are Mr. Modi and his confidants aware and active in that direction?
By Deep Basu
Images were supplied by the author.