Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, also known as the Clean India Mission or Clean India Drive, is a national level campaign run by the Indian Government. The aim of the mission is to cover all urban and rural areas in order to present the country as an ideal, clean, green, and healthy country before the world. The mission has targeted objectives like the construction of latrines, promoting sanitation programmes, cleaning streets and roads, eliminating the open defecation, converting insanitary toilets into pour flush toilets, eradicating manual scavenging, and complete disposal and reuse of solid and liquid wastes. However, in a disgraceful incident, the Thane Civil Hospital flouts all rules and regulations dumping medical waste in open. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, which is supposed to be adhered by all government offices and Civic establishments, has been neglected at this hospital. The photo clearly shows that the medical waste like used syringes, Bloodstained clothes, used sanitary napkins, etc. lying around the hospital premises causing inconvenience to the citizens and patients visiting the hospital. However, the complete negligence of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by a government hospital itself raises the question as if the ‘campaign’ was just for the Photo-Op?
While talking to Afternoon Voice, Dr. Shilpa Ambekar asserted, “The medical wastes not only pollute the premises of the hospitals but also toxic for the patients as well as their relatives. It can spread dangerous diseases like Dengue, Malaria, and Leptospirosis. The crowd at the government hospitals are high as the treatment are given free of cost, so the chances of spreading fatal diseases are high; hence, the officials must make sure that the areas around the hospital are clean and waste-free.”
She added, “Crores of rupees have been allocated for the Swachh Bharat Mission but the result seems to be zero. Apart from clicking photos, PM Modi, as well as celebrities, have done nothing in an actual sense.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially launched this campaign on October 2 (the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi) in 2014 at the Rajghat (cremation ground of Gandhi), New Delhi. While launching the campaign, the Prime Minister even had cleaned the road. However, it was reported as the biggest cleanliness drive ever in the history of India where almost three million government employees including students from schools, colleges, and universities became part of the cleanliness activities.
The WHO global air pollution database released in May 2018 confirmed in its report that several Indian cities have become the death traps because of the very high level of PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 2.5-micron size). However, of the 20 most populated cities in the world, the top 14 are in India alone which include Kanpur, Faridabad, Varanasi, Gaya, Patna, Delhi, Lucknow, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala, and Jodhpur. According to the report, toxic levels of pollution led to the estimated death of nearly seven million people every year.
As reported by the national media, the aim of the mission is to connect each and every individual from all walks of life by making the structure of planting a tree. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan constructs individual sanitary latrines for household purposes especially for the people living below the poverty line, converting dry latrines into low cost sanitary one, providing facility of hand pumps, secure bathing facility, setting up sanitary marts, constructing drains, proper disposal of solid and liquid wastes, enhancing health and education awareness, and providing household and environmental sanitation facilities. However, it was also reported that, earlier, many awareness programmes such as Total Sanitation Campaign and Nirmal Bharat about the environmental sanitation and personal cleanliness were launched by the Indian government but they all proved to be ineffective to make India ‘clean’.
Looking at the poor management in the Indian government hospitals, Social Activist Sanjiv Sane said, “All the hospitals in the Thane district are good in appearance, but the very fact is that there is neither proper system nor cleanliness. There is corruption in almost every government hospital. After consulting with the doctors, the patients have to take medicines from the shops outside the hospital as all the hospital chemist shops are always out of medicines.”
“Modi has done biggest corruption on the name of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan; it was completely a political stunt to grab the votes,” he added.
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is promoted throughout the country by many Indian celebrities to spread the mission as an awareness programme. The first nine people nominated by the Prime Minister for the campaign were Salman Khan, Kamal Haasan, Priyanka Chopra, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Amban, Baba Ramdev, Shashi Tharoor, Kapil Sharma, and the team of ‘Tarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma’. However, reports mentioned that Aamir Khan was also invited on the launch of the campaign. Later on, many brand ambassadors were chosen like Akhilesh Yadav, Mohammad Kaif, Manoj Tiwari, Kailash Kher, Sourav Ganguly, Kiran Bedi, and others by the Prime Minister to initiate and promote the mission in various fields. The PM also requested all the nine nominees to nominate another nine people separately to participate in the cleanliness drive as the aim was to continue the chain of the nominating nine people by each and every participated candidate of the mission until the message reaches to every Indian and make it a national mission.
There were many positive results of the campaign as many programmes like Swachh Bharat Run, Swachh Bharat Apps, Real-time Ministering System, and Swachh Bharat short film. However, to ensure the cleanliness in the official building of UP, chewing of paan, gutkha, and other tobacco products were banned by the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. In order to continue and make the campaign successful, the Finance Ministry of India also had imposed Swachh Bharat Cess in which everyone has to pay 0.5 per cent tax on all services in India which will be invested in the cleanliness campaign.
According to the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin’s (SBM-G) website, 473,331 villages, 472 districts and 22 states have achieved the ODF (open defecation free) status (as of September 26, 2018). However, there have been multiple instances where the ODF status has been questioned and the most significant of these came from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on September 19, 2018, when a report was tabled in Gujarat Assembly. The report debunks the state government’s claim of its ODF status. However, the reality can be observed all across the nation, from the Mumbai local trains, during a drive through the coastal villages of Gujarat, and hinterland of Maharashtra and many more such places. However, Thane resident Sukhda Kelkar expressed, “At first, the action should be taken against the contractors of the hospitals. The workers do their job honestly but the problem is that the workers are not paid on time. The government hospitals are so dirty and full of different kinds of wastes and garbage that if a family goes there for treatment, they return with another disease.”
She went on saying, “As far as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan is concerned, it has failed completely. If it was effective then the hospitals must look garbage-free and clean at least.”
Unfortunately, the government’s lofty claim through the fancy advertisements, boastful political speeches, social media, and official websites seem to be just a photo-op and the dream to get a Clean India is far from being a reality!
By Aabid Ali & Vijay Salgaonkar