Friday, October 3, 2014


During the last 2-3 days citizens in India are bombarded with the three words-"Swachh Bharath Abhiyan" by the voracious media, electronic as well as the news papers through saturated news coverage of the Gandhi jayanti celebrations. For an average citizen such high visible and high decibel coverage can only create skepticism whether any thing will happen to the cherished dream of Mahatma Gandhi to make India a clean country so that people can live without diseases and other adverse consequences of filthy environment. Whether it is Swachh Bharath or Nirmal Bharath, the name has very little relevance as long as there is tangible progress at the ground level. With a massive out go of more than Rs 2 lakh crore over a 5-year period, this particular program will definitely make some impact though no one can be sure regarding the potential, inherent in such a massive  government scheme for misappropriation of funds and mega financial scams. But the purpose behind the Abhiyan is noble and its successful implementation can change the face of this country. Here is one of the reports that highlight the details of this latest initiative from the new central government.        

The urban component of the Mission is proposed to be implemented over 5 years starting from October 2, 2014 in all 4,041 statutory towns. The total expected cost of the programme is Rs 62,009 crore, out of which the proposed central assistance will be of Rs 14,623 crore. The Cabinet had last month decided to merge the 'Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan', a campaign for rural sanitation with Swachh Bharat Mission. The Prime Minister countered Congress criticism that his government behaves as if everything happened only after he came to power. "I do not make any claim that the government, which has been elected to power just now, has done everything." Congress has been attacking Modi accusing him of taking credit of initiatives undertaken by the UPA regimes and trying to give an impression that every good work was done only by him. Recalling that he had congratulated all governments even from the ramparts of Red Fort, Modi said,"even today from this stage, I greet and salute all the governments--central, state and municipal, social organizations which have worked in this direction, whether they are leaders from Sarvodaya or workers of Seva Dal. I launch this programme with their blessings." Maintaining that everybody deserves kudos, the Prime Minister asked not to get into making political barbs on the issue. "Everybody before us has worked for it. Under Mahatma Gandhi's leadership, the Congress had led it...Who was successful, who was not. Let us not get into it who has done it, who has not. We should work responsibly," he said. While ruing that 60 percent of populace in rural areas still defecate in open, the Prime Minister said the stigma of women lacking toilet facilities has to be removed. Modi said that he has requested the corporates to evolve plans under corporate social responsibility to build clean toilets specially for girl students in schools. India, he said, should learn from foreign countries, where people are disciplined and do not litter in public places. He said though it is a difficult task, it can be achieved and for that people will have to change their habits. The Prime Minister said that a campaign has been unleashed on the social media as well where a separate website for the mission has been launched and he is tweeting about the drive on his Twitter handle. Expressing confidence that the nation can achieve the target of becoming one of cleanest in the world, the Prime Minister dwelt upon the low cost success of the Mars Orbiter Mission. "If people of India can reach Mars with minimal expenditure, why can they not keep their streets and colonies clean," he said asking people to take up the responsibility to make the mission a success. He also wondered whether the task can only be left only to the government to accomplish. "If we make it a public movement, we can make our country being counted as one among the cleanest nations," he said. The Prime Minister, who earlier in the day visited the 'samadhi' of Mahatma Gandhi and former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri on their birth anniversary, said while the countrymen launched a movement and achieved freedom realizing one of the slogans of Father of the nation, there is now a need to fulfil his other vision of 'clean India'. He also chose the occassion to compliment two persons Anant from Maharashtra and Bhagyashree from Gujarat, who designed the logo of the campaign (Gandhi's spectacles) and the slogan "Ek Kadam Swachhata Ki Or" respectively. "I am seeing that Gandhi is looking through these specs that whether we have made India clean or not, what we have done and what we have done," he said. Quoting a WHO estimate, he said a person in India loses about Rs 6,500 per annum due to illness and poor health as he is unable to perform day-to-day duties.He said if the surroundings are kept clean, then people will remain healthy and such losses can be minimised."

According to the Prime Minister average spending by a typical citizen in this country on medical bills to fight diseases caused by filthy living environment works to about Rs 6500 per year and the financial out lay for the Abhiyan can be justified if the disease incidences are brought down by undertaking appropriate projects to clean up the rural and urban areas over the next 5 years. Government intent to transfer Rs 20 lakh each per year over the next 5 years to 2.47 lakh gram panchayats in the country for constructing covered toilets is very laudable provided there is strict monitoring of expenditure and financial accountability. The shame of this country that almost 49% of the population defecate in the open even after 67 years of Independence is a stigma on the politicians and administrators who governed this country during this period. Similarly spending Rs 62000 crore on 4401 urban entities to improve the environmental and living conditions of people can achieve a lot if it is spent responsibly. As the PM said rightly, no amount of financial out lay can achieve any thing lastingly unless people change their attitude towards hygiene and sanitation. It is here that the schools have to play a vital role by inculcating among kids about the significance of cleanliness in every aspect of life if they are to become a responsible citizen of tomorrow. The new government will do well by better focusing on this important area to reform the schools, the teaching community and the syllabus on a mission mode.


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