By Sarkaritel October 8, 2014 13:00


Clean India Campaign


By Dr S Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

The nation was given a dose of an exciting experience on Gandhi Jayanthi to watch Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in the Valmiki Basti in Delhi by sweeping the place with a broomstick. The place was chosen for its association with Gandhiji, who had stayed there. It gave a new seriousness to the campaign that is going on at a smaller scale in many places in memory of Gandhi, but without keenness in steady follow up.

Whether the theme and event chosen this year to mark Bapuji’s birth anniversary is just a political stunt or a mimicry of Aam Admi Party’s broomstick symbol or sheer attention-catching and attention-retaining tactics – is not worthy of a discussion. The country doubtless needs a massive cleaning mechanism and effective operation. The sooner it starts the better.

Clean India Campaign has become a national voluntary programme undertaken with an oath. It is no longer a symbolic gesture, but a time-bound action programme. Specific undertakings are to devote at least 100 hours a year, i.e. two hours per week to voluntary work for cleanliness; and to initiate a quest for cleanliness with self, family, locality, village, and workplace.

The oath states: “I believe that the countries of the world that appear clean are so because their citizens don’t indulge in littering nor do they allow it to happen. With this firm belief, I will propagate the message of Swachh Bharat Mission in villages and towns”. To bring about a behavioural change is at the centre of this campaign.

The Mission includes eradication of open defecation, conversion of dry and insanitary toilets into flush toilets, abolition of manual scavenging, and creating awareness among people to the importance of sanitation for public health and well being.

The campaign will go on for five years and culminate on the 150th birthday of Gandhiji. All ministries and departments are to send daily reports of their activities under this programme. Hopefully, the nation by the 2019 would have imbibed the habit of personal and environmental cleanliness as an inborn trait!

Gandhiji once stated: “Unless we alter the conditions in our cities, rid ourselves of our dirty habits and have improved our latrines, Swaraj can have no value for us”. Pointing out that Plague and Cholera are stamped out quickly in other countries but not in India, he put the blame for this entirely on dirty habits of the people. He believed that neither the indifference of the then government nor poverty could be given as excuses when people’s way of living was most unhygienic.

The cleaning campaign must cover land, water, and mountains which are natural resources but contaminated by human intervention and misuse. It must spread to all villages, towns, and cities now struggling with mountains of natural and man-made waste materials. All lanes, streets, roads, and highways must undergo the cleanliness drive without discrimination. Residential areas, markets, office complexes, temples, hotels, hospitals, beaches, and entertainment places, and so on need thorough clean up in every sense of the term. A total cleaning revolution is long overdue.

Presently, Clean India Campaign has a decisive role to play in economic growth and development of the country also. Sustainable development is built on pollution-free environment. Its importance is not restricted to health and hygiene of the local people. To encourage visitors from abroad and to increase our ties and contacts with other countries, it is necessary first to present a clean India.

A study highlighted a couple of years ago that factors such as poor hygiene and sanitation, ineffective solid waste management, lack of hygienically maintained public amenities as impediments in promoting tourism in India.

These factors are linked with keeping our surroundings free of garbage. Litter-free roads and streets cannot be achieved without proper garbage removal and waste management systems.

Clean India Campaign does not mean shifting litter from one place to another. In cities where restrictions are enforced in disposing off domestic garbage, road users are inclined to keep their roads clean by throwing the litter on streets and street dwellers on lanes and so on. Garbage bins overflow throughout the day. Clean India Campaign must introduce sound waste removal and management techniques. These include several issues such as personal hygiene, pest control, laundering arrangement, garbage segregation and removal, and waste recycling and disposal.

In recent days, the problem of schools without toilet facility is receiving some attention. A World Bank Report noted a few months ago that nearly 600 million people in India defecate in the open. Along with this, the problem of manual scavenging is continuing despite a prohibitory Central legislation.

There are a few countries that impose fine for littering. In the UK, maximum fine of 2,500 pounds are levied for persistent littering. Local authorities have the power to impose fine on the spot up to 100 pound for this offence. Environmental Protection Act, 1990, Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act, 2005 provide guidelines for maintaining environmental quality and checking unclean behaviour.

“Litter-bug” is a term commonly used in Canada to refer to those dirtying the surrounding. Littering is considered as an anti-social behaviour — a concept absolutely strange to average Indian citizen.

Singapore has earned reputation for its cleanliness despite attracting people from all parts of the world – clean and unclean. Litter Law in this international centre is a curiosity for Indian visitors used to a state of perfect freedom to litter and spit in their homeland.

Under this law adopted in 1968, discarding cigarette butts, match sticks, bus tickets, etc. in public places is a punishable offence in Singapore.  Litter bugs may be fined up to $1,000 for first offence and up to $5,000 for repeat offences. Cleanliness is given prime importance that heavy fine and imposition of community work, and counseling are imposed.

Under community work inflicted by Corrective Work Order, litter bugs are required to clean a public place for a few hours wearing a special bright jacket. Smoking in public places and selling chewing gums are prohibited.

There is no anti-litter central law in India. The Railways has by rules prohibited activities affecting cleanliness and hygiene in railway premises. Littering, cooking, washing utensils and clothes, bathing, defecating, etc. are punishable with fine going up to Rs.500. Vendors have to keep trash cans in their carts.

Uttarakhand adopted the Anti-Littering and Anti-Spitting Act, 2012 which prescribes fine for violation of the Act. Occupants of lands and buildings are responsible to keep their places clean. Fine may go up to Rs 5,000 per day of offence and additional Rs.500 for continuance of the offence.

The worst obstacle to Swachh Bharat is people’s indifference. Every individual citizen feels that he/she can do nothing to tackle this Himalayan problem whereas collectively, they can succeed provided the Mission is carried on as an industry of multifarious components. —INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

By Sarkaritel October 8, 2014 13:00