Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan – Difficult but not an Impossible task

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness” it is said that wherever cleanliness is present, god would be present there. This is not the first time that India is witnessing a “Clean India” campaign. Prior to this, the UPA government and NDA government had kicked off such drives but the difference with Modiji’s drive is that never a PM himself got down on the streets and cleant the street. This is really a booster, not only he does things by himself but also calls for multi linking chain through social media, radio and television medium. Recently, there was a similar kind of drive in the social media termed as “Ice Bucket Challenge”.

I was discussing about this tough initiative “Modiji’s Swach Bharat Abhyan” with my colleague. He said people will just brush off saying “We are paying tax and that money should be utilized in these drives”. But, my point is “It is tough to obtain cent percent cleanliness by 2019 in every school, hospital, street, bylanes, without active public participation”.

Because, if you see countries like USA or Canada residential plots are grouped in and termed as a “subdivision”. If you notice all the homes would have a uniform paint , design, number of floors etc. In these subdivisions, residents are made responsible for keeping their surroundings clean, they are not supposed to even change the paint color of the exteriors even when they own one, there is a limit on the type of pet and number of pet animals what they can keep in their house .

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A typical Subdivision in United States

The subdivision authority specifies even the height of grass to its residents. Usually these sort of conditions are collated into a document called Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R) and given to the owner at the time of possession. Eventually, what happens is a neat, clean and uniform looking surrounding which is again maintained by none other than the residents themselves.

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Extract of CC&R depicting the grass length

India is now slowly getting into this model in the form of apartments, villas, bungalows etc. The big question is what about the ones that is already existing how do we pass on this message of cleanliness to that class of people and get the plan executed. Probably, the drive should start from street or mohalla levels like a group of people is created with a cleaning staff assigned to each street and its the responsibility of the group to create awareness and ensure that debris or waste is not strewn or thrown on the streets. It is always collected and given to the cleaning staff who is basically appointed from the corporation or municipality.

The next hurdle would be what happens to these waste that is collected from these streets. How will they be disposed? Will they be burnt or used for some productive purpose. Ofcourse many developed countries have found fantastic solutions to convert the waste into useful stuffs. Otherwise, the issue is passed from one corner to the other. In developed countries tackling the waste has become a cake walk like the waste is segregated and sent to the various departments where it gets reused or recycled. For instance, Singapore follows the 3R policy which is an acronym for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Following are few of the points which can be put into practice even in our country also.

Reduce

Plan a shopping list to prevent purchasing on impulse.
Purchase things with less packaging.
Purchase things in bulk quantities e.g. one large box of breakfast cereal instead of two small boxes.
Purchase durable items that will last you a long time e.g. rechargeable battery.
Purchase refillable items e.g. dish washing liquid.
Borrow, share and/or hire things that you only need occasionally.
Bring a shopping bag while shopping instead of requesting for plastic or paper bags.
Use cloth instead of paper tissue for cleaning.
Minimise the use of disposable items such as disposable crockery, non-rechargeable batteries etc.
Store perishable food e.g. bread, fruits in refrigerator.
Cook just sufficient food for meals.
Pack breakfast or lunch in washable container instead of a one-time container.
Write to the respective organisation/s if a few members of the family receive the same reading materials/information.
Call the respective organisation/s to remove your address from their mailing list to prevent junk mail.
Reuse

Reuse used glass and plastic containers as receptacles.
Use unwanted plastic bags to bag garbage.
Use old clothing as rags for cleaning.
Convert scrap paper into memo pads.
Pass old textbooks, story books, and toys to others.
Pass smaller size but good quality clothing to others.
Donate good quality but unwanted items to old folks’ homes, charitable organisations etc.
Repair and recondition faulty electronic appliances to extend their useful lives.
Clean and reuse ornaments for the next festive celebration.
Clean and reuse washable cutlery and crockery for the next party.
Recycle

Make recycled paper at home and decorate it for use as a greeting card or wrapping paper.
Segregate recyclable items for collection by waste collectors.
Participate in recycling programme/s and deposit recyclable items into designated recycling bins.

There are lot of best practices that can be taken and implemented from within our cities like for example Warangal district in Andhra Pradesh is known for this waste disposing system. It was a runaway success but could not have been possible without public participation. The mastermind behind this drive was Dr. Janardhan Reddy.

Sanitation facilities would be next thing to tackle. In India, nearly 60% of population still don’t have access to proper sanitation facilities. Although, Modiji in his independence day speech did announce that building toilets would be the first thing and lot of corporate houses started contributing for this noble cause. Bill Gates appreciated Modiji for this initiative. Gates through his foundation agreed to provide the necessary support to design 21st century toilets that do not need big sewage systems and water treatment plants.

Half the battle is won if awareness is created in each and every citizen that “this is my country and I need to keep it clean at all times”. But, this thought can be instilled in the young minds because it is difficult to bend a huge tree but easier to bend a small plant. In Japan, school children clean their school toilets and this is reflected in their city’s cleanliness and orderliness.

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Japanese school kids cleaning their school toilets

Recently in Japan, during the 2014 world cup soccer match the audience who had gathered in the stadium cleaned the stadium after the match was over.
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A soccer fan collecting garbage after the match

Every year  Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India publish their cleanest cities list through National City Rating. When they publish their list the parameters or indicators on which the cities are benchmarked must be taken as case studies and those must be converted into best practices and adopted across other cities.

But, this initiative cannot be successful without public participation.

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