NEW DELHI: Just back from a triumphal US visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not waste time resting on his laurels or dwelling on a fawning NRI community in New York and Washington DC. Instead, he was at work, keeping his date with the Swachh Bharat campaign.
A master strategist, Modi chose an occasion — Gandhi Jayanti — to take up the broom, getting the high and mighty of the land to do the same. From the President to the three service chiefs to the Class-IV staff at Shashtri Bhavan and Nirman Bhavan of Delhi, every one joined, South and North Blocks included.
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Those manning the power corridors were out sweeping them. In a pledge for a larger goal, Clean India, which no one, not even his staunch critics, could disagree.
While launching the Swachh Bharat campaign en route from Rajghat, Modi stressed the importance of sanitation — a real people’s issue, if there could be one. Shameful as it may be, India has not been able to provide a minimum level of sanitation to 60 per cent of its populace in rural areas who still defecate in the open. And poor sanitation has a direct impact on health and causes malnutrition-related problems in children.
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Modi also raised the issue of stigma surrounding women lacking toilet facilities and stressed that this needs to be removed.
Always wanting to come out as a doer, Modi said he has requested corporate houses to evolve plans under corporate social responsibility to build clean toilets, especially for girl students in schools.
India, he said, should learn from other countries where people are disciplined and do not litter in public. He said though it is a difficult task, it can be achieved and for that people will have to change their habits.
“If people of India can reach Mars with minimal expenditure, why can they not keep their streets and colonies clean?” the PM questioned.
A presentation by Ask How India on the importance of efficient sanitation points out that close to 69 per cent of Indians in villages don’t have access to toilets and that access has increased at a rate of less than 10 percentage points. In 2001, 22 per cent Indians in villages had access, which rose to a mere 31 per cent in 2011.
Also, it shows that even when people have access to toilets, many of them prefer not to use them because very often they have no water supply to keep the toilet clean.
The solution, as pointed out, is to also help build toilets that are easier to maintain and require less water. The presentation also adds that we need to monitor the usage of toilets as well and not just look at the construction side.
Well, it was not a day without politics. Somewhat out of the popularity loop, AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal too joined in the PM’s mission by picking up the broom, his party symbol.
But there was no denying on Thursday AAP lost the copyright over the broom symbol; and the Congress of its most treasured icon - Mahatma Gandhi.