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Reality Of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

By Arnab Mitra

Mini Bus Stand, Howrah

A year back, on 2 October on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, Narendra Modi launched the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ in order to make India clean by 2019. The Prime Minister himself led the charge of the movement, coming to the streets with brooms along with his ministers and other government employees.

The campaign witnessed not only common people taking initiative to make India clean, but also big names like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Ambani, Amitabh Bachhan and others in order to make “Swachh Bharat Abhiyan” a successful story.

But almost a year after the launch of the clean India Mission/Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the condition of the country is as grimy and unsanitary as before. The roads continue to function as garbage dumping grounds, people continue to spit pan/gutkha casually in public places and in several villages people have no other option but to defecate in open. This is the reality of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

NewsGram travelled all around the ‘City of Joy’ Kolkata to find out how successful the “swachh Bharat” campaign has been in the past one year.

The first spot that the NewsGram team visited was Howrah, which houses the famous Howrah Bridge. However upon reaching the place, the deplorable condition of the city came out in full proportion.

Howrah Bus Terminus. Photo Courtesy: Madanmohan Samanta
Howrah Bus Terminus
Howrah Station Approach. Photo Courtesy: Madanmohan Samanta
Howrah Station Approach

 

One of the finest works of British architecture, Howrah Bridge is ‘decorated’ with red spots of gutkha at every nook and corner.

At the Howrah Station, people were seen relieving themselves in the open with foul smell of rotten food and urine all around.

The next stop was the anglo-hub of Kolkata’s Park Street, famous for the party goers was no better. There were wine bottles and waste food dumped on the roads, despite of a corporation dustbin on the street.

Amardeep Singh owner of the Mantra restaurant and bar at Park Street while talking to NewsGram, about the indifferent attitude of citizens towards sanitation said, “It’s temporary garbage, so we just dump it on the street. The corporation car comes and collects this garbage. We have been doing this since a long time.”

Jagannath Ghat Flower Market. Photo Courtesy: Madanmohan Samanta
Jagannath Ghat Flower Market

Maidan, the next place NewsGram visited, is a place of known for its greenery.  With Victoria Memorial at one side, and Eden Garden at the other side, it is a famous tourist spot of Kolkata.

N R S Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata Photo Courtesy: Madanmohan Samanta
N R S Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata

However upon reaching the place we found that the green pasture was littered with food packets, banana peels, cigarette buds.

This year on October 2, there will possibly be a huge celebration of one-year completion of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The government and the media outlets will probably make a month long propaganda of Government’s huge success in the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ project. But the sanitary condition of the country will continue to deteriorate, if the citizens do not participate seriously and actively to make India a clean nation.

Photo Courtesy: Madanmohan Samanta

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Fall Of The Currency And Increase In Oil Prices: India ‘s Turmoil

The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars.

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India
Rajesh Kumar, left, shares a ride to work with another employee, Dilip Swain, right, as higher petrol prices in India begin to be felt in people's pocketbooks.VOA

The fall of the currency of India to record lows and rising global oil prices have raised worries that the world’s fastest growing economy faces headwinds that could hurt the fortunes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in next year’s general elections.

From people filling fuel at gas stations to thousands of students heading out to study overseas, the impact of the slumping rupee is sparking discontent.

Having plunged by about 12 percent against the dollar this year, the rupee is one of Asia’s worst faring currencies, and as in other countries, the slide has accelerated since the crash of the Turkish lira.

“The reasons are global. We must bear in mind that in last few months, dollar has strengthened against almost every currency,” said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently as he tried to send out reassuring signals that India’s economy is on track.

India
The rupee has plunged by about 12 percent this year raising fears of spiraling inflation. VOA

The rupee’s sharp depreciation comes at a time when the economy had recovered from a slowdown and surged to a two-year high in the quarter that ended in June. Forecasts put growth for this year at 7.5 percent.

Economy will slow

But economists warn this momentum will be difficult to sustain as the tumbling rupee, along with rising crude oil prices, takes a toll on growth. India, the world’s third largest oil importer, gets almost 80 percent of its fuel needs overseas.

“The government needs to mellow down on growth aspirations,” said N.R. Bhanumurthy, economist with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. “The growth needs to come down to a little less than 7 percent.”

Even as the government faces the prospect of a slowing economy, it is under pressure to lower taxes on gas and diesel to bring down the sharp rise in prices. Fuel is one of the most heavily taxed items in India, with rates as high as nearly 50 percent. Prices vary from state to state, but they have gone up by about 14 percent this year.

Hoping to cash in on the growing disaffection over the surge in fuel prices and the sliding rupee, opposition parties led nationwide protests that shutdown offices and schools in several cities this week.

India
Discontent with spiraling fuel prices poses a challenge to Prime Minister Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of general elections next year. VOA

The government dismissed the protests, saying that although people faced momentary difficulties, they understood they were because of factors beyond its control.

Political analysts are not so sure, pointing out that fuel prices are a politically sensitive issue in India and usually result in a spike in inflation.

“Anger is rising, there is resentment,” said Satish Misra at the Observer Research Foundation, warning the ruling party will face a backlash “Obviously that is going to have a negative impact on the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party, there is no doubt about that.”

Warnings from economists

Among those who are upset with the high fuel prices is Rajesh Kumar, who commutes 30 kilometers to the advertising agency where he works. Hit by the higher prices that eat into his income, he has started sharing the ride with another employee.

India
Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“I have given up the idea of buying another car,” he said despondently. “I will not be able to afford the cost of running it.”

Economists however have warned the government against giving in to populist pressures ahead of a series of state polls later this year and general elections around April next year. They say lowering taxes on fuel or taking measures to prop up the currency will strain the country’s finances and hurt the economy in the long run.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“One needs to be more careful and vigilant,” Bhanumurthy said. “It is easy for India to stay with low growth than experiencing the high deficit.”

But there is also some good news for the Indian economy. The falling rupee has given a boost to some of India’s most lucrative exports, such as software services and pharmaceuticals, which add up to billions of dollars. (VOA)