There are more than a couple of firms who conduct tours of Dharavi slums in Mumbai, mostly for international tourists, which came into prominence after the much acclaimed movie “Slumdog Millionaire“.
Rave reviews of these can be found online, which talk at length about the culture, cuisine, industry and hospitality of Dharavi, trying not to mention the unhygienic conditions people live in. Definitely not something to be proud of. Concrete and humongous steps in cleaning our country are long due.
The ‘Clean India Mission’, better known as ‘Swachh Bharat‘ campaign has reverberated from the Red Fort to the White House. It finds mention in the Independence Day Speech of PM Narendra Modi to his joint editorial in the Washington Post with US President Barack Obama. The likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are also joining hands with India in this mission, in terms of sharing their expertise.
While the rest of the editorial talks about cooperation between Indian and US in various fields from business to space, US seems to have gone out of its way in the cleaning India endeavour. There definitely is no “Chalein Saath Saath” here for US and India, as the two countries are not even near to equal standing in this field. Is it a repetition of the ‘Slumdog’ showcase? Could we have handled this issue on our own?
The bane of filth has chased us a long time down the history lane. Mahatma Gandhi said “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” He devoted his whole life to this endeavor. It is only apt then that 2nd October was chosen for the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign, which will continue for five years, culminating into a ‘Clean India’ on his 150 birth anniversary in 2019.
Besides the symbolism attached to it, and the tokenism in the form of ministers holding brooms for photo-ops, it is a welcome step by the present government. A recycled version of ‘Nirmal Bharat’ mission started by the UPA governemt, “Swach Bharat’ will go the extra mile and aim to make India open defecation free. Government employees, students, actors and common people participated in this event. What is important to see to it that it extends to more than one day, and becomes a part of our everyday lives.
Sanitation has always been a game of ‘ping pong’ between people and the authorities blaming each other. Taxpayers complain that not enough is being done in cleaning the streets and sewers by the local authorities, while the latter conveniently blame it on the ‘habits’ of the people who throw trash out in the open. A solution of working together could be found to this problem as a collective effort. In the west, a community or a neighborhood adopts a street or an area and work together on cleaning it regularly, taking joint responsibility.
A change in mindset is more important than anything else. Cleanliness begins at home.We should first start cleaning up our home as a family, not just the female members, working alongside the helpers and maids wherever necessary. It is not somebody else’s responsibility but our own. Government needs to chip in by providing waste bins, drainage systems, toilets etc.Recycling, separating dry and wet waste, rehabilitating our dumping grounds could be the things we could look forward to. Industrial waste needs to be treated in an environment friendly manner. Standardized measures and practices can be brought in by the administration.
Swach Bharat is set to be an andolan, a movement, rather than just a government program. Our PM has rightly asked the masses to participate, by contributing two hours a week to this endeavor. He has also asked his ministers to join. To bring home the point,he has himself taken the broom in his hand. This is the right approach. Leading by example. Mahatma Gandhi did it, and the masses followed. Lal Bahadur Shastri did it, and to this day, his followers sing his praises. It is his birth anniversary too on 2nd October. It remains to be observed if our present PM too is planning to set such a precedent, by himself contributing two hours a week to cleaning, outside his busy schedule. He will.
A social media campaign was launched by our PM, through his speech from Rajpath, where he nominated nine celebrities, which include Sachin Tendulkar, Priyanka Chopra, Kamal Hasan and others, to join in this campaign and asked others to do the same. He also administered a pledge of cleanliness to everyone attending, along with special guest Aamir Khan, amid a charged atmosphere. This is an issue beyond politics, and everybody needs to join in, despite different affiliations.
Let us also not lose this opportunity to not only clean the ‘outside’ but also our ‘inside’. Starting from ourselves, let us clean our country of the vices of corruption, communalism, gender inequality and casteism in thought and in act. Hope our ministers follow too.
By: Manasi Gandhi
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