Clean India Campaign, will just cleaning streets sustain it?


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“Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” or the “My Clean India” Campaign was launched on Oct 2nd, 2014 by the hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi in New Delhi, India. The PM along with a few others took to the streets, chose a spot and helped sweep the dirt there. The pre and post clean up operation pictures were posted by every newspaper, website and channel worth its salt. The PM went on to kick-start a clean up challenge by inviting 9 other stalwarts of the country to follow suit and in turn, invite 9 others to do so; thus introducing a chain scheme similar to the recent Ice Bucket challenge started to create awareness and raise funds for Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The Ice Bucket challenge went viral and was pretty successful for a period of time.

I personally believe that what Mr. Modi started is definitely a powerful mission especially when being propagated top down. But, without proper planning and measures taken to keep up the momentum and eventually seek perennial penetration within the community, it can be short-lived and fizzle out as quickly as several of the viral campaigns we have seen in this era of social media.

First, the entire BJP rank and file could have participated in the kick off across the country than just a few of the leaders. Second, this is a party agnostic nationalist mission and all parties, should have come together to support it. Before you start reacting, let me clarify that I don’t want to make this political.

However, hear me out before you comment. I, just like other Indians do want this campaign to go viral and sustain, but doubt the sustenance although want to believe that it will.

Here are my reasons:

  1. There is not enough fervor and motivation created so far by the 9 challenged. Some have said, I have always done so and others have said, love the idea and will surely do my part. One was abroad and sought the local embassy to see if he could come in and clean. The idea here is to not clean once and say, “ I have done my job. You next.” The idea   is to create intrinsic motivation to do what is right and continue that. Further, cleaning once or going out there and cleaning a couple of times is not going to make a permanent difference. The goal of the campaign should be to create a permanent transformation of habit in all Indians. I know it’s a lofty task but what is a challenge without one. Even succeeding partially would mean a sea change benefit to not just India and Indians, but the world for it can create such powerful global recognition of the phenomenon and its adoption by others. Don’t you think so? I would like to see all of our “leaders” irrespective of political affiliations or cadre, come out and pick up the brooms, not once but consistently over a period of time. The oath that was administered to clean about 100 hours a year, I implore them to do it each week. Choose different spots and do it, but, over a period of time come back to the spot you began with. If without your cleaning it, it remains clean when you return, you have achieved your mission.
  1. There is an old and famous saying, “ Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he will never be hungry.” That is exactly what needs to happen with this campaign too. Inspire the population to embrace the habit of cleanliness. In a land of 1.2 billion, much garbage is created and collected. Let’s focus on teaching our people:
    • How to minimize the amount of garbage they create
    • How to recycle since one man’s garbage is another’s gold
    • How to collect and dispose
    • How to become self-sufficient in living practices
    • How to pass the values on to future generations so it becomes second nature
  1. A review and analysis of our garbage removal and containment infrastructure and processes is needed. Modernization of our outlook, infrastructure and practices along with the way we manage waste is crucial so we don’t need a campaign for what should be a part of regular life.
  1. Inculcate respect for our janitorial staff and create better living and working conditions for them. Let’s bring a sense of camaraderie, and honor the work they do to ensure we all live clean and healthy.

I am sure there is much more we can do to make cleanliness practices sustainable over time. Now, I leave you here to discuss and deliberate with a focus to take action since I can hear my wife calling out to start our home cleanliness drive and take the garbage out. You know, it’s the weekend and that’s my job for the day!

Image Courtesy of PTI

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