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No Swachh Bharat possible till people own up responsibility for implementing cleanliness

By Nithin Sridhar

Ever since, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared Swachh Bharat Mission, cleanliness has remained one of the important focus of NDA government. Many people have taken the initiative and led cleanliness campaigns across the nation. Yet, it appears that the mission has, at least till now, failed to create any positive impact on the minds of the majority of people, who appear to continue to indulge in their unhygienic and unclean practices.

Mahamana express reduced to littering ground

This fact was clearly demonstrated in the way people conducted themselves while travelling in the newly rolled out Mahamana express connecting Delhi to Varanasi. Narendra Modi had flagged off the train on January 22, and within days, images of dirty and unkempt interiors of the train began to be circulated in social media.

The images revealed how floors of different coaches were littered badly- with empty groundnut shells, food packets, and newspapers; how newspapers and empty bottles were left on the seats; how clogged wash basins full of dirty water was left as it is; and how beer bottles were discarded in the coaches.

The incident is highly disturbing and the fact that the train passengers could not even adhere to few basic hygienic practices during a 14-hour travel, reveals how deeply has uncleanliness made home in the psyche of the people. The incident is also testimony to the fact that people have no care or respect towards public property and facilities that are being made available for common people.

Unclean thoughts lead to unclean actions

This apathy towards the sanctity of the public property is largely rooted in the thought-process of the people who presume, they can do anything within trains, because they have paid for the tickets. Add to this, the fact that there is no penalization for indulging in unclean actions and even penalized actions like smoking in trains are rarely implemented. Another common excuse forwarded is that they simply followed what others were doing. Thus, some Mr. X smoked, so I also smoked; some Mr. Y threw litter, so I also threw litter on the floor.

Unless this mentality and thought process of people is transformed, no Swacch Bharat missions will become successful. This unclean behavior, which has become an integral and inseparable part of many people’s lives, is the root cause of all hygienic and cleanliness related issues.

Sensitizing people about the importance of cleanliness

People must be sensitized towards the importance of cultivating hygienic practices, which includes keeping one’s body as well as one’s surroundings clean. More importantly, people must be encouraged to cultivate clean behavior and own up their actions without trying to put forward excuses.

They must also be sensitized towards the fact that public facilities are provided for the use of common people. If people themselves misuse it and damage it, then the loss is again to people itself. After all, public properties are built using tax payers money.

Cleanliness leads to Godliness

Though, this task of sensitizing the public is gargantuan, it is not impossible. India has a very long cultural and religious tradition that actually considers cleanliness as one of the central tenets of sacred and secular life. We find Hindu scriptures counting ‘Soucha’- cleanliness of mind, body, and surroundings- as one of the basic universal duties of humans.

Therefore, the need of the hour is to reconnect people with their own spiritual and cultural heritage, so that their minds can be imprinted with the outlook that cleanliness is a sacred duty that every person is obligated to follow, because cleanliness leads one to Godliness.

Goddess Swachhnarayani

It may be asked whether this approach will really bear results, or whether it is even practical. Thankfully, we have at least one campaign on these lines, which clearly demonstrates the success of the approach.

Manushi Trust has been working for the cause of street vendors since 1997. They have developed Sewa Nagar in Delhi as a model market for street vendors. Among the many issues they faced, was the lack of awareness and respect towards cleanliness among the street vendors.

Realizing that to truly create awareness about cleanliness, these street vendors must be made to internalize the importance of cleanliness and imbibe cleanliness as a necessary discipline. To achieve this, Manushi first started ‘Jhadu Worship- the worship of broomsticks and later in 2005 installed the idol of ‘Goddess Swachhnarayani’ holding a Jhadu (broomstick) in Sewa Nagar. This initiative ensured that cleanliness was absorbed by the street vendors as a sacred duty that all were obliged to adhere to with devotion.

Similar innovative measures that would sensitize people about cleanliness by connecting them with their cultural roots could be replicated across the country.

Practical habits to inculcate while traveling

Now, returning back to the issue of traveling in trains. Lack of cleanliness has been one of the long-standing issues of Indian trains. Every person complains about it, but nobody seems to do anything about it. Here are the few habits, if inculcated by the passengers, it will go a long way in keeping the trains clean:

  1. Every passenger must carry 2-3 spare polythene covers with him/her so that in case they need to throw any cups, empty groundnut shells, or any such small size litter, they could put them into those covers. The covers can be later thrown into dustbins.
  2. Passengers must inculcate the practice of always throwing food packets, empty water bottles, and other large size litters into the dustbins present in the coaches, thus keeping the floors clean. Passengers should also avoid leaving back their newspapers and bottles behind on their seats. They should either throw them into dustbins or take them with them.
  3. Toilets and Washbasins must be used properly. Passengers should avoid throwing bubble bums, paper napkins, bottles, etc. into wash basins and/or toilets that may cause clogging. They must also flush the toilets properly.

These simple basic hygienic practices if implemented by all passengers will keep the trains litter-free. (Photo Credit: Twitter)

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