Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal commitment to ideas is virtually weaving magic and bringing them faster to fruition. The 100 days since the massive mandate for the NDA, has further put a stamp on his communication style — rallying officials and people alike to address concerns in key thrust areas. Fast-paced actions to ban single-use plastic is another instance of his ability to produce quick outcomes. The result: plastic has already disappeared from Central offices and the BJP headquarters.
Milk distributors like Amul are learnt to have conveyed to the government that they are identifying alternatives for plastic pouches, even as the Railways and Air India are about to cap them. Modi had resolved to end single-use plastic from October 2 in his sixth Red Fort address on Independence Day.
Modi’s communication wizardry has powered behavioural change enabling a culture to address environmental irritants. The government has tasted success with his appeals and campaigning on Swachh Bharat, which helped create millions of toilets. The ‘Give it UP’ campaign nudged financially better off people to forego subsidies on LPG cylinders, while his focus on welfare schemes helped expand coverage of clean cooking fuel (Ujjwala) scheme.
Can we free India from single-use plastic? The time for implementing such an idea has come. May teams be mobilised to work in this direction. Let a significant step be taken on October 2,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his Independence Day speech this year. The Centre is likely to announce a ban on use of single-use plastic (SUP) for a number of items on October 2 - among them sachets, straws, cups, plates, small bottles and plastic bags. But will these be enough?
In his broadcast Mann ki Baat earlier, the PM had spoken about the need to phase out plastic use by 2022, a call quickly endorsed by Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif and Madhuri Dixit in a pre-IIFA awards function. Different ministries have already taken a range of initiatives in order to clamp down on SUP with Railways and Air India following suit.
Activists working to get plastic banned agree that “when the PM backs a move, people seem to take them more seriously.” “Suddenly, it’s happening when decades of attempts to get people to back environmental friendly initiatives had failed,” said one.
BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi recently suggested ‘going back to green Indian habits of drinking water from cupped hands and using “datun” or neem twig to brush teeth to cut down on plastic use’. However, a strong regulatory mechanism and the availability of cheaper alternatives will help the transition.
“Plastic is the cheapest option across materials. We have to see to make it prohibitive and make alternative options cheaper. People do understand the impact but it has not resulted in behavioral change,” said Priti Banthia Mahesh, programme coordinator, Toxics Link.
Bharati Chaturvedi, the founder of Chintan, believes punitive action and green incentivising need to go hand-in-hand in order for any ban to work.“We need not only a ban on SUP but also on its manufacturing, while pushing small-scale and medium industries to switch to alternatives,” said Swati Singh Sambyal, at Centre for Science and Environment.”
‘Action’ on streets of Raipur
PM Modi’s I-Day appeal to people to shun plastic so inspired Raipur-based Surendra Bairagi that he and his family took upon themselves to encourage the use of cloth bags in his town. Bairagi, his wife and daughter are now on a mission using discarded cloth-like bed sheets, curtains, old uniforms etc to fashion shopping bags and distribute them free to people while emphasizing the PM’s message. “The PM’s vision inspired us. But he alone can’t do everything. The onus is on all of us to create awareness against plastic and protect our planet,” said Bairagi, 49, who works for a private firm.
“I borrow clothes which are of no use to friends and relatives, which my wife stitches into bags at leisure time like Sundays and off days. There is very little expense involved. Then we visit markets to distribute them,” said Bairagi.
So far, the Bairagi family has distributed around 500 cloth bags-absolutely free. Every bag that he gives away is accompanied with a strong message to switch to clean and plastic-free environment. He asks people not to expect plastic bags from shopkeepers. “I do not hesitate to take away the plastic bag from the customer and replace it with a cloth bag. I then return the same plastic bag to the shopkeeper advising him not to use it again,” he said.
'Fit' is hit
If Yoga is a success and the world has come to know about it, PM Modi can truly be credited for it. It was primarily due to his efforts that the United Nations adopted a resolution to observe June 21 as International day of Yoga, noting, “the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health.”
“Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action... a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature,” Modi had said at the 69th United Nations General Assembly in 2014.
He also took to social media specially Twitter in a big way to popularize it, posting animated videos of himself performing different asanas. “Stronger wrists, back muscles and prevention of spondylitis...just some of the reasons why practising Shalabhasana is beneficial. #YogaDay2019,” he had noted in one of his posts. Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently credited Modi for popularising yoga and making the ancient Indian practice the ambassador of the country’s culture around the world.
“The good part about the popularisation of yoga is now the world knows which country is the pioneer of yoga. People following Beer Yoga, Rage Yoga, Goat Yoga in the West will now wake up and research what yoga really is,” said Priyamvada Mangal, a Mumbai-based yoga coach and photographer. India has been hosting celebrations on International Yoga Day which is also attended by foreign delegates. Lakhs have joined it since. In his speeches, Modi has noted that yoga acts as a unifier of different countries.
Sheshpal, yoga course director, the Yoga Institute, Delhi, said yoga is a holistic exercise of physical and emotional well-being and it has truly been popularized ever since Modi put forth the idea at the UN. “More people are taking to yoga now. Youths are also tapping into yoga with more job opportunities arising from it as instructors and educationists.”
The Ministry of Human Resource Development had appointed a committee for making recommendations on yoga education in universities. The committee had prescribed a curriculum for Yoga courses in its recommendations. Following this, colleges and universities were identified under the University Grants Commission (UGC) to promote yoga courses.
Cash to cash-less
It was following demonetization when PM Modi appealed to people, particularly youth, to actively support Centre’s initiative to build a cashless society, people heartily accepted the PM’s call to use less cash and to promote digital transactions.“Even if we can’t build a cashless society, at least we try to create a less-cash society. I urge the youth to not just support it but to also become soldiers of change by teaching at least 10 families about the benefits of online banking, e-wallets and mobile payments," the PM had said in November 2016.
Current data on digital transactions vouch for the grand success of the PM’s appeal. Total number of digital transaction during the year 2016-17 was Rs 1,013 crore which registered over 100 per cent rise in the subsequent year 2017-18 to Rs 2,070 crore. The growth has not stopped as the year 2018-19 registered 51per cent rise in cashless transaction to Rs 3,133 crore. The first three months of current financial year 2019-20 has also witnessed massive cashless transaction with the number already standing at nearly Rs 975 crore.
Cashless transaction is a major part of Digital India programme initiated by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology with the vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge-based economy by ensuring digital access, digital inclusion, digital empowerment and bridging the digital divide.
The Digital India programme is centred on three key vision areas namely Digital Infrastructure as a Core Utility to Every Citizen, Governance and Services on Demand and Digital Empowerment of Citizens.
Aadhaar is another major component of Digital India and over 123 crore residents have been provided with biometric-based Digital Identity as compared to 61 crore in 2013-14. Aadhaar combined with Digital Locker, eSign, and various forms of digital payments have paved the way for common man getting services on his mobile, instead of having to run to multiple government offices.
Similarly, Bharat Net is an ambitious initiative to trigger a broadband revolution in rural areas aims to connect all the 2,50,000 Gram Panchayats in the country and provide 100 Mbps connectivity to all gram panchayats (GPs). Already, 3,37,515 km optical fiber has been laid connecting 1,28,870 Gram Panchayats.