On PM Narendra Modi’s call Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign has been initiated. October 2 (Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary), will be observed as Swachh Bharat Day. It is a laudable activity. India is one of the dirtiest places in the world. It is a matter of shame for all Indians particularly it spiritual, social and political leadership. We claim that our scriptures teach us that cleanliness is godliness. We pride that in the recent times, our father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi was an ardent votary of cleanliness. Then why we are the dirtiest people. The answer is not far to seek. But we are not honest in our thought and action. The caste system, to my mind, is the primary reason for our neglect of our physical cleanliness of our homes and surroundings. We require a safaiwala (cleaner) to the odd cleaning jobs. That safaiwala generally comes from a low caste in the social strata. It is below our dignity to do our own work and keep clean. The safaiwalas have further division. There is a general safiwala who will not touch the garbage and the bath rooms. We need to have another person for that and he or she generally belongs to the lower castes. Unless, this narrow mindset is changed nothing is going to work. We need to establish a casteless society to begin with. The leadership is required to see the things in perspective and educate the masses. Only a lip service has been done so far in this regard. We are not ready yet to undertake our own cleanliness and remove and handle our own waste. The practice of cleaning our house and dump the garbage at the neighbors door step is still is still happily prevailing. It has to change.
I am living in Jalandhar. I have seen today, September 26, the photos of brooms and buckets being held by the political leadership particularly belonging to the ruling BJP on the commencement of Swachh Bharat Saptah (Clean India week) as willed by PM Modi. It is the dirtiest joke of the day. For the last 10 years, BJP is in power and runs Jalandhar Municipal Corporation. Every nook and corner of the city is dirty. The heaps and mounds of garbage is just dumped on the side of the road, of course at the open site designated by the municipal authorities. First the garbage is examined by the stray animals then by the rag pickers. The left over is occasionally trucked by the authorities in an open air fashion leaving the foul smell all around. The Akalis who rule the state from Chandigarh are equal partners in Jalandhar Municipal Corporation. Now the BJP has their government at the centre too. The Swachh Bharat campaign belongs to PM Narendra Modi. Let us see what happens? Nothing will, I think, happen. It will remain a photo opportunity till the mind set is rectified, as I said before.
Not to talk of developed world, I have seen poor countries like us. The situation is not bad at all. China is as populated as we are. There railway tracks and stations are not dirty as ours. I travelled from Hongkong to Beijing by train many a times and from Beijing to Pyongyang (North Korea) a couple of times. I did not see anybody defecating and urinating in the open. I travelled widely in poor Africa and countries of Central Asia. There is no visible eye shore. They are much better and ahead of us.
Gandhi Jayantis will come and go. We will remain where we are if don’t change our thinking. For that the governments need to provide facilities and the common people like us to realize the saying ‘Cleanliness is Godliness’ by shedding our inhibitions that the odd jobs are to be done by the so called ‘Safaiwala’ alone.
Postscript: A little while ago, PM Narendra Modi launched Swachh Bharat campaign from New Delhi. He reiterated that it is not the duty of safaiwala alone to clean our dirt. It is the duty of all us to keep ourselves clean. He said, “Is cleaning only the responsibility of karamcharis ? Do citizens have no role in this ? We have to change the mind set. On this day, October 2, when we are observing the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, we should support Swachh Bharat campaign as a national movement and do our best to make it a success.