Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday symbolically wielded the broom in a Dalit colony where Mahatma Gandhi once stayed to launch a unique nationwide campaign which seeks to change Indians' mindset vis-a-vis hygiene and aims to clean up the country in five years.
In a spirited speech near the India Gate monument a short while later, Modi told a huge gathering that Indians had a responsibility to fulfill Gandhi's dream by ridding the country of dirt and filth by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Father of the Nation.
But will this be sustained in the times to come? Lyricist Javed Akhtar during a debate on NDTV said that this was an initiative no one could oppose.
" I think this is an idea that no reasonable person can disagree with. All our big cities are turning into garbage dumps. The government and the prime minister have taken the initiative, but only when everyone participates. When you say I love India, the street outside your house is also India," he said.
Entrepreneur Kiran Majumdar Shaw said, "I have been involved with clean Bangalore campaign for many years. But there is no political and administrative will to implement it. I am glad that the Prime Minister has made it a mass movement. I am surprised by the attitude that the educated in India have. Even the administration is reluctant to take measures against people who dump garbage. This particular focus on cleanliness nationwide is welcome. I think it will work. Having said that we must have a progress report. We should have a calendar. May be the next date should be Republic Day."
PM Modi also asked Indians to make cleanliness a mass movement, urged youth to be part of the Clean India project and called upon people to use social media to share their role in making Indian cities and towns more liveable.
Modi started the day by visiting Rajghat, the Gandhi memorial, to mark the 145th birth anniversary of the Mahatma, who was a strong advocate of cleanliness.
On his way to Valmiki Colony which Gandhi made his home for 214 days in 1946-47, Modi suddenly halted his car, entered the Mandir Marg police station, saw the state of cleanliness and calmly picked up the broom to sweep away fallen leaves.
While that was a great photo opportunity, there needs to be implementation to achieve a "swachh Bharat" in the real sense of the term and for that there need to be measures to implement this.
BJP's Sudhanshu Trivedi said, "The issue of cleanliness can be achieved only through public participation. It is the birth anniversary of Lal Bahadur Shastri and Mahatma Gandhi. Modiji has drawn inspiration from them. We hope public awareness will be created and it will culminate into a movement."
PM Modi is not just concentrated on cleaning roads. He has also planned to build toilets in rural areas at a time when 60 percent of India still does not have toilets.
Zee News reported that "Joining Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call, TCS, Vedanta, Bharti Enterprises and Laresn & Toubro will construct toilets across the country to strengthen government's "Swachh Bharat" campaign."
Columnist Dilip Cherian lauded this move. He said, "Modi is an event manager, he is also a man who has chosen micromanagement. He chosen to take things from the bottom upwards. That is very important. He is lining up a rural health programme and toilets along with the cleanliness drive."
In his speech near India Gate where the mission was formally launched, Modi said India could change radically if citizens imbibed discipline.
"Do citizens have no role in this? We have to change this mindset," Modi said. "India can do it, the people of India can do it. If Indians can reach Mars, they certainly can clean up the country, he said to applause from more than 5,000 school students besides people from all walks of life.It takes time to change established mindset. I know it is a difficult task. But we have five years".
The prime minister named nine people -- including cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, actors Priyanka Chopra and Salman Khan, and industrialist Anil Ambani -- to spread the message of Clean India.
While the initiative is good, there is much rhetoric regarding it said columnist and writer Ajoy Bose. "If we are to take this forward go beyond the rhetoric. This is a necessary and crucial strategy. We have to get cleaner. This is a vital matter. Mohalla level party workers have to get involved. They have to be stake holders. This whole attitude that the government must do something is not going to work."
Even as the PM administered an oath to the people of India to keep the country clean, there needs to be a shift in the attitude of people for any major change to happen. While the government is squarely blamed by many for the country being dirty, no one stops anyone, including themselves, from littering on the roads. It is almost like it is inherent in Indians to litter, spit and urinate on the roads.
Akhtar said, "Most Indian households are clean. But the moment they cross their own doors they lose all sense of responsibility. We have to work very seriously. The government has to provide infrastructure. If there are no dustbins, no public toilets, what do you think people will do?"
Calling sewerage a bigger challenge Shaw said, "This particular campaign has brought in a lot of focus and what is commendable is that it was brought onto the national agenda. Every city and every town has to be made litter free. Follow it with garbage management. I think no city in this country has any clue about garbage management. We talk about toilets but bigger challenge is sewerage. Cleanliness is a huge factor when it comes to the health of the nation."
To which Bose pointed out, "We talk about terrorism, but it only kills a fraction of the number of lives that are lost because of lack of sanitation. Make it difficult for people to litter, make it a punishable offence."
Meanwhile lauding the prime minister's efforts Congress' Rashmi Kant said, "Why did Mr Modi choose 2 October. Gandhiji represented certain values of selflessness, of truth. It is very important to understand the values that Mahatma Gandhi stood for. We need to create millions of Gandhi across India. Swachh Bharat is not just a clean India, but a character which is clean. We have to look at the larger picture."
"Unless we create a movement for the cleanliness of the mind like Gandhiji did, we will see the same problems 30 years later," he said.
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Updated Date: Oct 03, 2014 08:53:59 IST