NEW DELHI: Cleaning India has become a bit like the ice bucket challenge. Using the symbolism of Gandhi Jayanti, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched ‘Swachh Bharat’, casting it in the mould of a people’s movement rather than a government drive -- first wielding the broom himself, then personally inviting nine others, in the manner of online campaigns.
After an early morning sweep at a Valmiki Basti, an inspiration speech at Rajpath eschewing “politics” in favour of “patriotism”, and a surprise inspection of a police station’s cleanliness levels, he invited celebrities from all regions and walks of life to keep public attention on his cleanliness drive -- cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, film stars Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Kamal Haasan, Priyanka Chopra, yoga guru Baba Ramdev, industrialist Anil Ambani, Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, the team of a popular TV serial, and even Opposition politician Shashi Tharoor.
Many of them tweeted their acceptance -- Tendulkar and Priyanka Chopra saying they were humbled by it. And Aamir, who also joined the PM in taking the pledge along with Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Venkaiah Naidu, said he would love to be the brand ambassador of the campaign.
The pledge itself happened at his Rajpath speech, where Modi enjoined it on thousands of Indians, including school children and government employees, to fully undertake this responsibility. “I will remain committed towards cleanliness and devote time for this. I will neither litter nor let others litter,” pledged all those present at the function. “I have invited nine people and asked them to come to public places and work towards a Clean India. I ask them to invite nine more people too. I am sure these nine people will do the work and each will invite nine more people to form a chain and clean the country,” Modi said.
All over the country, thousands of government employees attended office on what was hitherto a national holiday to take the pledge.
The original ice bucket challenge where such a chain was created online was designed to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease and motor neurone disease, which is a global viral phenomenon.
Modi also propagated his campaign through social media using his website mygov.in and other such websites, including a new website dedicated to the Clean India campaign. The PM later joined the children in the Walkathon after flaggin it off at Rajpath. The Walkathon is part of steps for creating awareness on cleanliness.
Blessing in Disguise
Union Health Minister Harshvardhan has said people of the country should view the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan as a “blessing in disguise”. “Mahatma Gandhi had said cleanliness is next to Godliness. I say cleanliness and Godliness add up to the biggest dividend -- good health. Most of our common diseases find it impossible to thrive in clean surroundings. If we succeed in achieving this revolution, people’s expenditure on medical treatment will be reduced considerably,” he said.
Thanking the PM for placing unprecedented emphasis on cleanliness, the Health Minister said that the image of the country had gotten eroded over the years and India was considered “filthy”. Now, every Indian feels the need to do something to change this reality, he said.
Vardhan announced that on October 9 he would persuade health secretaries of all the states to implement the Swacch Bharat project in their respective states. The meeting will also deliberate on the contours of a new National Health Policy.
Delhi Keeps its Date
Almost all departments, bodies, agencies and independent organisation of the Delhi administration joined the Clean India campaign and took a pledge to implement cleanliness. While performing Kar Seva at Bangla Sahib Gurdwara, Lt Governor Najeeb Jung said, “To make India clean was the vision of Mahatma Gandhi. The government has done a symbolic gesture by starting the drive today to make it come true. The cleanliness drive in national capital is a five-year mission.”