Our Prime Minister’s clarion call for cleanliness has received a resounding reception across the country. I am extremely pleased that through the #SwachhaBharat/ Clean India mission, our Government has created a wave of awareness about cleanliness and has initiated a much needed drive for a cleaner India. Not only is the Swachha Bharat initiative making way for a better India, it is also a fitting tribute to the Father of our Nation Mahatma Gandhi and our Second PM Shri Lal Bahadur Shashtriji whose birth anniversaries it is today.
On this occasion, I am reminded about Sant Gadge Mahraj from Shedgaon village of Maharashtra. A public teacher, he traveled from one place to another wearing his food pan upturned on his head and carrying his trademark broom. When he entered a village, he would instantly start cleaning the gutters and roads of the village. In return the villagers gave him money, from which the Maharaj built educational institutions, dharmasalas, hospitals and animal shelters. He conducted his discourses in the form of “Kirtans” in which he would emphasize values like service to humanity and compassion. Gadge Maharaj was the embodiment of the quote ‘Cleanliness is next only to Godliness’.
The Government of India started a ‘Sant Gadgebaba Swachta Abhiyan’ in 2000-01 in his honour. This programme awards prizes to villagers, who maintain clean villages, Shedgaon has won this honour and continues to be one of the cleanest villages in the country.
In Mumbai specifically I had the honor of launching the Swachha Bharat Abhiyan with the BJP President Shri Amit Bhai Shah, through a clean up drive in Khar Station. Mumbai produces more than 15,000 tonne of waste every year. Parallel to the initiative of creating awareness against littering and waste, we need more segregated dustbins in important public areas. We also need to ensure that these are strong dustbins that do not break. We definitely need more such initiatives as well as more Government interventions in the form of solid waste plans, sewage treatment plants and in general a better waste management and segregation infrastructure.
But the awareness around littering and waste management is very important. It is very disappointing when ‘Being Indian’ is equated with littering; this is why the change in mindset that #SwachhaBharat campaign brings about becomes essential. We have all seen people litter in our streets, many a times when confronted those who litter say ‘this is India, throw whatever you want anywhere’. I feel disheartened in such situations, especially since the same people will head abroad and ensure that they follow rules of civic cleanliness. Indians behave in accordance to laws and rules in other countries but fail to do the same in India itself. We ourselves undervalue our country and presume that it can be dirtied while foreign countries need to be kept clean. It is my hope that with the #SwachhaBharat Abhiyan everyone in the country understands that it is not OK to dirty our country.
Indeed it has to be a cultural change, civic cleanliness should become a part of our lifestyle. As the example of Sant Gadge Maharaj goes to show — cleanliness is a part of our tradition. We need to go back to our roots and place cleanliness as a priority. The best learnt lessons are the ones that are thought early on, we need to educate our youth about the importance of cleanliness and dissuade them from littering in any form. If we teach our children in schools, our sons and daughters at home to use a dustbin and install in them the virtue of being clean in public places, most of our job to bring about a clean India is complete.
Through the Swachha Bharat initiative we must also take a Swachhata pledge, one that is not meant just for today but for everyday to come. We must make sure that India stands on par with other countries in the world with respect to cleanliness. Keeping in mind our rich past and values, this is definitely possible. I look forward working with you all in making Swachha Bharat Abhiyan a success.