Cleanliness is next to godliness – we all have read this quote. Our Bapu, Mahatma Gandhi, was particularly interested in banishing, along with the British, all the dirt and impurities that plagued our nation and its citizens. He had known since then that cleanliness leads to a healthy body and mind.
Inspired by Bapu’s vision, on 2 October 2014, the Indian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, made it a mission to make India clean by 2019 by eradicating open defecation, improving solid waste management, and making the citizens aware of the importance of cleanliness. The name of this mission was Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Movement.
Objectives of the Swachh Bharat Mission
A primary goal of the campaign is to eliminate the practice of open defecation and provide basic sanitation facilities by providing toilets, solid–liquid waste disposal systems, clean drinking water, etc. It aims to clean streets, roads, towns, and infrastructure in 4041 statutory towns and cities across the country. According to UNICEF, a single gram of faeces can host millions of viruses and parasites. These viruses and parasites are the reason that every year one lakh children die of diarrhoea.
While making India open defecation-free by 2014 was the main aim of the mission, it also aimed at making people more aware of the problems created by solid and liquid wastes when garbage management is not done properly. The Swachh Bharat Mission aimed to make rivers, drainage system, buses, offices, and streets cleaner.
It is also among the objectives of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to make the citizens of the country aware of their utmost responsibility to maintain cleanliness and prevent filth from spreading around the country.
The Launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not something that happened overnight. India is a big country and improving it requires meticulous planning. Before the Swachh Bharat Mission, the previous two cleanliness missions in India paved the path for the most successful cleanliness drive of 2014–2019.
The campaign was conceived in a conference organised by UNICEF and the Indian Institute of Technology in March 2014. Later that year, on the birthday of the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, the Swachh Bharat Mission was flagged off. It was a daunting project that required the construction of 90 million toilets across the country. The seriousness of the mission can be judged when we see that the government earmarked 1.96 crore rupees for the project.
The Prime Minister also nominated nine public figures to spread the word, including Sachin Tendulkar, Priyanka Chopra, Salman Khan, Baba Ramdev, Shashi Tharoor, Kamal Hassan, Anil Ambani, Mridula Sinha, and the entire cast of the famous television series Taarak Mehta ka Ooltah Chashmah. Nine people had to be further nominated in order to form a chain system.
Side by side with the main Swachh Bharat Mission, the Indian government also launched the Clean India: Clean Schools Campaign. The campaign aimed to ensure separate toilets for boys and girls in schools, appropriate sanitary facilities for menstruating students, a handwashing station that can cater to at least 10 students at the same time, availability of soaps, etc.
Although the Swachh Bharat Mission has achieved phenomenal success, certain things still need to be done. The Indian government did a great job by building lakhs of toilets. However, the need of the hour is to change the mentality of the Indians. Despite having toilets in homes, many find it beneficial to defecate in the open. They do not want to ‘spoil’ their supposed sanctity of the homes by defecating inside the house in the toilet. These people need to remember that the outer world is nothing but the extension of their homes. The Earth is their home. The people must keep the planet clean.
Step Towards a Better Tomorrow
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is an ambitious project. When other countries are aiming at the Moon and Mars without improving the lives of the people, the Indian government has taken a people-first approach. Along with the Clean India campaign, it is also necessary to make our hearts cleaner. We must respect each other, we must respect women, and we must not attack each other in the name of religion or caste. Only after that, we can say – we are clean physically as well as spiritually.
This mission is not about any political agenda, said PM Modi, but rather to awaken a spirit of patriotism among the people. Teamwork is vital, and people need to devote 100 hours a year to the mission since it can’t be achieved by one person or by the government alone. Every Indian citizen is responsible for keeping India clean and green.
As a result of the mission, death and lethal diseases rates in rural areas were reduced and households in rural areas received an annual benefit of Rs. 50,000. With an increase in employment opportunities, Clean India attracted many tourists from all over the world, thereby enhancing the nation’s GDP and economy.
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a truly unique project in the history of India, is a great accomplishment for our nation. As we continue to do our part to keep India clean and beautiful, we must do so with zeal and enthusiasm.