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Swachh Bharat - Damascus 2017

Discovering Truth in Humility ; The Cleanliness Drive in India-Fulfilling Gandhi’s Dream

Today (October 2, 2017) marks the 148th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.  Three years ago on October 2, 2014, India had pledged to make itselffree of all dirt by  2019 by launching its biggest so far nation-wide cleaning  campaign involving 1.25 billion people, or more than one sixth of humanity on our earth. This was the best tribute that Modi Government of India could pay to the Father of the Nation on his 150th birth anniversaryto be celebrated in 2019.

So what is it that connects India’s nationwide cleaning campaign to Gandhi, who is primarily known for truth and non-violence?.  In-fact, unknown to many, Gandhi’s prophesy for a clean India was another indicator of his greatness enshrined in his simplicity. A seemingly insignificant topic like sanitation, had occupied as important a space in his mind as of achieving the Independence of India.

The advent of Industrialization in India consequent to the British colonization led to the concentration of people around the industrial centers. Absence of amenities like accommodation, sanitation etc., corresponding to the needs of the people entering these industrial cities, had given rise to the cropping-up of the slums around these cities. Gandhi was disturbed to see the state of people languishing in these places and wreaked with various diseases.  He realized that the age old Indian wisdom of ‘Satyam ShivamSundaram’ (realization of the beauty in the auspiciousness of truth)would be meaningless as long as we do not have a disease-free society in beautiful and clean surroundings.

Even though, Gandhi’s idea of cleanliness was rooted in the ancient concepts of ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’,the unusual aspect of his  prophesywasstake-holdingofevery dweller in cleaning their environment. Here,we can see his holistic objective of discovering truth in humility,and freeing the society from its dependence on others for their cleaning needs. Imagine what will happen if the refuse collection in the big cities gets suspendedfor a week for some reason?!

Indian government has allocated more than 5 billion USD of funds for this campaign, known in India as “Swachh Bharat”. It was a herculean task to introduce this campaign across a large geographical area and population. Implementation and progress monitoring is done through Action Plans developed  by 76 Central Ministries and a web-based portal. Sanitary related developmental projects have been launched at a scale covering whole India.Inclusiveness under the Swachh Bharat was achieved by designing public and community toilets keeping in mind the special needs of women, elderly, small children and physically disabled.  ‘Swatchh Bharat is a national movement with diverse stake holders comprising of Central Ministers,State Governments, local institutions NGOs, corporates media etc.This being afollow-up of Prime Minister’s call that Swachhta (cleanliness) is everyone’s business not limited to the sanitation departments alone.

A large number of measures were taken to bring awareness in masses.  The social media significantly assisted in enhancing the awareness level among masses. Eminent personalities like Amitabh Bacchan  and many others were nominated as brand Ambassadors to popularize the campaign. Personal participation of Prime Minister Modi in the campaign is an important feature tin increasing the enthusiasm of the people for the campaign.

If you happen to be in India during a fortnight before 2 October, you may be surprised to witness people,getting together and cleaning their surroundings, irrespective their creeds and ranks; thus giving a free day to the cleaning staff; and discovering truth in humility.

(Man Mohan Bhanot)
Ambassador of India in Damascus


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