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Swacch Bharat lost in the reverie of idealism

LUCKNOW || Swaach Bharat when translated in English means, ‘Clean India’. A concept I was brought up with, believing it to be part and parcel of my motherland. As it was drilled into me and my sibling’s brains, that cleanliness of body and mind is of utmost importance, which was further strengthened by my ideal surroundings.

Neat rows of flats or houses, manicured lawns, spick and span roads and an array of people sweeping parks early in the morning. It was not a dream but reality for me and many more, who opened their eyes in army cantonments by virtue of their parent(s) being a defence officer. This trance continued as my hometown happened to be Chandigarh, one of the cleanest and the most organised city in India.

picThen, like Jack and Jill of childhood rhymes, I came tumbling after seeing the real picture. As I grew up to see the hills of garbage that welcomed one on entering nation’s capital Delhi, the character was maintained as you ventured towards the betel leave stained by-lanes of Chandni Chowk; or the deadly, stinking open drainage systems found in most of the old cities or the unbearable stench of Mumbai, India’s financial capital or the large amounts of garbage to be found around the religious and historical places and also in rivers, lakes, ponds etc across the length and breath of my homeland. India is an eternally beautiful country but disregard for public hygiene by its citizens has given it a shabby reputation on the world stage.

We Indians love our cleansing rituals, be it our personal hygiene or private spaces like home and offices, which are religiously cleaned well. But beyond that we have forgotten the learnings of our great civilisation and the teachings of highly reverend Vedas that emphasised on cleanliness being an important virtue. As we have become proficient practitioners of the, ‘Lotus Theory’. Like the beautiful lotus growing in stagnant water, we too have adapted to live and progress in an unkept, unclean surroundings of our own creation. Somewhere every conscious Indian feels wretched for having resigned their fate to living in perpetual filth. But beyond these mental somersaults, we have really not bothered to take any concrete physical action.

When the present BJP led Indian Government initiated the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign, it all seemed to come to a full-circle. As the campaign was launched on 2nd October 2014 where ,Prime-minister Mr. Narendra Modi, himself cleaned the road. All this started with a huge fanfare of roping in celebrities from all walks of life, media coverage of efforts being put in for cleaning the public spaces to Vidya Balan’s government run advertisements on demerits of open defecations and awareness on proper sanitation and social media handles like twitter, Facebook, tumblr etc all looked washed/swiped by wave of cleansing fury. Everything looked real and happening for starters with much awaited breath, fingers were crossed for magic to last forever.

On the other hand, a question was bouncing in each and everyone’s mind that, How long would this great wind of change continue? Maybe ‘Achhe Din’ (good days) would come riding on the back of a cleaner and sparkling India. Or maybe this endeavour would usher in an era of successful completion of public projects and many more firsts to happen. Alas, the maybe has remained a maybe as we the Pride of our nation!! Were back to what we are best at doing, being a sizzler. All the steam, efforts, action and star-power sizzles and fizzles before reaching the desired expectancy.

Steps have to be taken to awaken our inner voice of doing right. As keeping the surroundings clean won’t get into our systems with a single campaign alone. I feel we have to inculcate these habits from a nascent stage, like school to college, have stringent laws and penalties for defecations, educate about sanitation etiquettes to vast majority of population in rural, semi-urban and below the poverty line areas.

Success is guaranteed only when majority of population understands the merits of an initiative and demerits of its failure. Sharing the same sentiment the government(s) should keep realistic goals for achieving success like planning Immaculately, laying emphasis on value of time, effort and resources, maintaining a consistent tempo from start to end of a campaign and also keeping communal sentiments out of the bigger picture. Only and only then can we attain Clean, Cleaner, Cleanest India..

— Pukhraj Neogi