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‘Mann Ki Baat’: Galvanising Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

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By: Dr. BindeshwarPathak

India was called the ‘Golden Bird’ (Sone Ki Chidiya) in ancient times because of its wealth and prosperity. However, people disregarded cleanliness. Be it a city or a village, people did not pay attention to cleanliness. They had an unfortunate habit of dumping waste products everywhere at public places.

Piles of garbage or filth in public places was a common sight. Besides, people used to defecate in the open as not many houses had toilets. Women faced many challenges as they had to go out for defecation either before sunrise or after sunset. Sometimes, snakes and scorpions etc. would bite them when they stepped out to defecate in the dark. Sometimes, there were also incidents of crime against women and girls while they were on their way to the fields or on their way back. People used to defecate on both sides of the road or next to the railway track. Some people would also use pay-and-use toilets in villages and cities. The sweepers deserve praise for cleaning those toilets, because if they did not clean those toilets, diseases like cholera, etc. could spread and people could die. Sadly, the manual scavengers were treated inhumanely and they were subjected to derogatory words like untouchableall through the day.

Mahatma Gandhi launched India’s independence movement in 1915. At the sight of filth all around the country, Gandhiji said in 1919 that he wanted ‘Swachh Bharat’ (Clean India) first and independence later. Mahatma Gandhi asked the common people and especially the volunteers involved in the freedom struggle to use ‘trench latrines’ which Gandhi himself used in South Africa. Gandhiji also said that until toilets were built in the houses, people going out for open defecation should cover the excreta with soil so that the flies do not sit on it as they pose a health risk.

Flies can carry bacteria, viruses and parasites from waste to our food and cause diseases. He also said that new forms of toilets should be developed so that the practice of manual scavenging is put to an end. He also called for ending the practice of untouchability and favoured that the people involved in manual scavenging should be incorporated into mainstream society and treated equally with other members of society. Gandhi even said, “I may not be reborn, but if I have to be reborn, I would like to be born in a Valmiki family so that I can free them from this inhuman, unhealthy and disgusting work of manual scavenging.”

Addressing the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for the launch of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyanto end open defecation. Officially launched on 2nd October 2014, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is one of the most successful government initiatives in the history of independent India. If you’re wondering how this happened, the answer is simple. The Prime Minister made citizens an integral and important part of this campaign. A day after the launch of the campaign, the Prime Minister talked about it in great detail in the very first episode of ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on 3rd October 2014. He called upon the people to join the campaign enthusiastically.

He gave a call for ‘toilets first and temples later’. He said that toilets should be built in 4.50 lakh schools of India within a year in mission mode so that school girls are not forced to skip classes or drop out totally. This will also help increase the enrolment of girls in the schools. It should be appreciated that toilets were built in all the schools within a year. Expressing concern over the problems faced by mothers and sisters while going out for defecation, Prime Minister Modi launched a campaign to build toilets in all houses before the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. It is a matter of great satisfaction that toilets have been built in about 11 crore houses of India and now mothers and sisters do not have to go out for defecation.

On August 15, 2014, Prime Minister Modi picked up a broom and cleaned the Valmiki Colony in Delhi. He also called upon the people of the country to pick up the broom and clean up public places wherever they see any dirt. He also wielded a spade to clean the AssiGhaton the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi where silt had accumulated for more than 50 years. AssiGhat now looks outstanding. Apart from worshiping by the local people, tourists from India and abroad come to AssiGhat and enjoy watching the waves of the Ganges.

Prime Minister Modi should be lauded for his efforts as there is a ground swell for cleanliness and people do not litter at home or in public places. People even object if they find somebody littering at public places. There has been a sea-change in the attitude of people as they can be found discussing the benefits of the cleanliness movement in villages, cities, schools and colleges and even while travelling in trains and buses. The entire country now looks much cleaner and Prime Minister Modi deserves all the credit for this. The Prime Minister did not stop here. He continues to share every milestone and stories related to the cleanliness campaign from across the country on important platforms like ‘Mann Ki Baat’ to keep motivating the people. This has not only created a sense of pride among the citizens, but also energized them to keep the country clean.

Prime Minister Modi has lit the lamp of cleanliness among Indians. He has called upon the countrymen to revive the culture of cleanliness, which was prevalent during the Harappan civilization. As the ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio program heads towards its 100th episode, the country is gearing up for many revolutionary mass movements like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan under the leadership of the Prime Minister. Let us join hands together to make India a better place not only for us but for future generations as well.

(The author is Founder, Sulabh International Social Service Organization)


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