A ‘Before’ Before An ‘After’

Know the current state of cleanliness before a Swachhta Abhiyan

Know the current state of cleanliness before a Swachhta Abhiyan

This 2nd of October, on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, our honorable Prime Minister appealed to citizens of this country to contribute their time and effort towards the Swachhata drive under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

For those not in the know, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, also known as the Clean India Mission, is a Central government initiative for working together towards a cleaner India.

The campaign, which covers over 4000 cities and towns across India and was launched two years ago precisely on 2nd of October 2014, has various milestones attached to it, including a deadline when India is able to solve the open defacation issue..

The campaign has the support of not just the Central and respective State governments, but also of the World Bank, which has invested quite a considerable amount into supporting the government’s clean India drive.

Thus, on this 2nd of October, to celebrate the passing of two years of the Clean India Mission, our honourable PM also appealed that citizens should click pictures of their respective cleanliness drive and share it with him on a designated app.

I believe I would reserve my significant comments here for what happened in other parts of the nation, but I did see and understand what happened in my city, particularly in my neighbourhood.

I stay in Faridabad, an industrial township in the National Capital Region region of Delhi. Other than being infamous for the mostly shut-down factories on account of the constant rift between the management and the respective trade unions, Faridabad also houses the second largest slum in Asia – only second to Mumbai. While more than 54 percent of Mumbai lives in slum, 46 percent of Faridabad lives in slums.

These are figures not many in India would be privy to, except of course economists and others in the business of knowing social statistics. When I got to know these figures, I too was quite shocked for one, and it took me time to realize the state of the State in which I was living. Though I have never been to the interiors of Dharavi, but have often got glimpses of it in Hindi movies, I have been to quite a few slums in Faridabad.

And a visit to these slums tells a telling tale of the kind of inhuman life and livelihood people are living in. With no access to portable water, no drainage, no sanitation, no connecting roads – all one can see is filth and stench all around.

Add to that the unauthorised colonies, where there is no method in the madness of construction, and you have a situation where there are endless slums which are not just bereft of power, but sunlight too. And it has been like this since ever.

I wish, and I seriously do, that our honourable PM, instead of the focus on cleanliness drive, would have driven a campaign where in masses could post to him pictures of their reality.

A cleanliness drive, where the purpose is more to upload pictures than to actually bite the dust, would invariably result in tokenism, as it did on this Gandhi Jayanti.

As I walked down my neighbourhood in the morning, I saw the most paradoxical sight of the high and mighty, sporting the impeccable whites, with brand new broom sticks just picked up from the nearby general store, all posing for pictures, with a broom in their hand.

It was interesting to observe, but I must admit that I have never seen such a fight for brooms. Needless to say, this particular Swachh campaign happened in the cleanest of environs.

Looking at all this, I said to myself, tokenism has always been a way of political life, as we all have grown seeing it endless times.

But now, we have taken a giant leap towards making the same tokenism a matter of heroism for masses, who not only took brooms as medallions in their hands, and posted their pictures on the app, but flooded the same on their social network.

I do not know whom we are fooling, or what is it that we are trying to run away from. Cleanliness and basic hygiene are so basic to human life and its dignity, and even to deserve this much just cannot be a struggle. And even if it is a struggle, which is our reality, we just cannot make heroes out of doing something which should have been the basic right of masses.

No questions asked, this drive is a pressing imperative, but not like the way it is happening. A more prudent way to this drive should have been a set of before and after pictures of every cleanliness drive. And this ‘after’ picture should continue in regular periodicity or checks. Though not deserving, but still, in this way we can have some real heroes.