Recently, there was news about a government school in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram Rural district where children as young as four crossing the road, which witnesses heavy traffic, just to use the toilet in a different building where senior classes run. These children are kindergarten students of LPBS Chuwara School. The situation highlights how states are far from implementing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swacch Vidyalaya mission which comes under his ambitious Swacch Bharat or Clean India campaign.
As the August 15 Independence Day deadline for the scheme nears, states are scrambling to meet the target of toilets in every single school. Kerala has spent Rs. 1.28 lakh for 172 toilets in 150 schools this year. In addition, 520 toilets were made usable mostly in rural schools. The state government claims that every school across 14 districts has separate toilets for boys and girls. Under Right to Education, every school should have one toilet for every 25 girls and 40 boys.
The situation is not different in rural Maharashtra and even toilets existing in suburban Mumbai are poorly maintained. Most of the schools have dirty toilets without doors, sanitation or hygiene. In India toilets are still a challenge. In Mumbai slums there is one toilet for more than 200 residents or the entire slum have just 3 to 4 toilets. I am not saying that its Modi’s responsibility to look at these toilets but it’s definitely the duty of his own ministers and administers to monitor such things. Merely announcing big projects will not solve nations root level problems.
This cleanliness drives and broom saga started with the Aam Aadmi Party. Gandhian cap and broom were their signatures. However, later on BJP hijacked their topi and changed the colour to saffron, and finally Modi held their broom to announce “Swachh Bharat”. I hope, they don’t remain just symbolic gestures or cosmetic efforts to pose for camera and grab the limelight for a day. If the politicians and IAS officers don’t eat up the money allotted for keeping the city clean, why will the cleaners not keep the city clean? Clean India is very good initiative however not only cleaning but proper disposal, decomposition and utilization of garbage, sewage must is necessary. A course on garbage management may also be implemented in academics to study the future challenges of garbage and sanitation. Government should provide land for building public toilets. Planning department should allocate sufficient funds, initiative should start from top. The town planning department should ensure that there is sufficient number of garbage bins and proper drainage system. Clean India is healthy and prosperous India. However, the cleanliness campaign must not be just a superficial exercise. Focus is also needed to raise the living standard of people who have been performing cleaning works. Contract based cleaning must be put to an end and action against municipal corporations must also be taken if they don’t work as per guidelines, demand and need. Corruption had been another issue in municipal corporations due to contracts which also need to be eyed by government. Then only a true clean India can be achieved.
Fortunately, even Mahatma Gandhi has suddenly come to limelight. Otherwise, he was always on hate list of Modi supporters. Even if it be for populist exposition, the beginning of at least one of the different things for which Gandhiji and other freedom fighters sacrificed their lives and brought freedom to India from the rules of the British, is a right step indeed. Gandhiji’s biggest concept has been Village Development – with India having over 638,000 villages and even after 67 years (since independence) nothing much has been done to create better living conditions in almost 100 per cent of them. Providing toilets to villagers is a laudable concept; but when they do not have enough water even to drink and cook food, what can they do to clean toilets? We are still talking and (acting) much more than actual deliverance at the ground level.
“Swachh Bharat Mission” is Prime Ministers vision and a pledge of every Indian. Thousands of people and hundreds of organizations are coming under one roof to make this vision a reality and make India completely clean by 2019. Making an appeal for a non-political movement driven by patriotism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat or Clean India, Mission on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The Mission will aim to make India ‘clean’ by October 2, 2019, Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary. This goal will include the elimination of open defecation, which he called a “blot on society”, especially for women and young girls. I hope such noble initiative becomes fruitful in the long run.
It is important for the people to realize that its success lies in their hands. Modi and his government can only encourage and support the people. This won’t work if we won’t actively participate in keeping our homes and local communities clean. And, it won’t work if we won’t commit to changing our old habits. No more careless litter, spitting in public, etc. This is more about a change in lifestyle than a movement. More than garbage, another issue that we are facing is spitting in public places which is the single cause for most of the health problems in our country. Ban should be imposed on spitting in public places. Spitting is done by both rich and poor. We see many educated and well groomed people spitting red blobs out of their posh cars literally painting the town red. It is worse than garbage. While doing such Mass Cleaning, all should be wearing Personal Protective Equipment like cotton nose mask, cotton hand gloves and wherever necessary even eye goggles. Trash bags/bins have to kept ready and a common place for dumping of waste has to be decided in advance from where it would be picked up later. Planning ahead always helps.
Cleanliness should not be the job of sanitation workers alone. This initiative of Modi’s is really worth applauding, provided if it won’t stop here itself as formality of the day.