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Let’s not be cynical on Clean India Mission
After the success of Mars Mission in September 2014, a month later in October, on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, Clean India Mission or Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched to make India clean by 2019, to coincide with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
While the success of Mars Mission made every Indian proud as it put India into the elite club of interplanetary nations, in the matter of hygiene, India remains at the bottom of the ladder. Many critics criticised the Mars Mission on the ground that this money would have been spent on health, hygiene etc in an underdeveloped country like India. There is no doubt the Mars Mission was important and an important feet in the Indian space history, but Clean India Mission becomes successful, it will be a much bigger achievement.
India's fast-growing towns and cities are littered with rubbish. Most rivers and lakes are polluted with sewage and industrial effluents. No amount of growth and development can make India shine if the blot of filth cannot be removed which can be seen anywhere and anytime in India.
A major reason for the failure in this respect can be attributed to the socio-cultural set up in India where cleaning is supposed to be task of particular caste or community and as an individual achieves higher social status by virtue of education and money, things like cleaning our surroundings are considered to be menial and shameful. It’s ironical that we are not ashamed of littering public places but ashamed of keeping them clean.
In order to make this mission successful, we have to rise above the social stratification mindset of medieval India and take up the responsibility for cleanliness. The objective of the mission is to make the cleanliness a habit of every Indian and it is not an exclusive responsibility of a particular group. In order to make this point clear, almost everyone in the government, right from Prime Minister to a clerk in hierarchy participated in cleaning across the country. Elites don’t do the menial tasks, but the greats don’t consider any task menial.
Full public participation is the most essential requisite for the success of this mission. Other measures announced to make the mission successful include grant of INR 2 million each to over 2, 47,000 village panchayats across the country. The money will be provided from a fund announced by the government for Clean India Mission over a five-year period.
Government has set up a Swachh Bharat Kosh (Clean India Fund) to attract funds from corporate and individuals to improve sanitation facilities, particularly in schools. Apart from this, measure like putting garbage bins at every hundred metres, public toilets at every kilometre will also help in keeping the roads cleaner.
According to the United Nations, around half of the India’s population defecate in open putting people at risk of cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, hepatitis A and typhoid etc. According to a recent study by World Health Organization (WHO), lack of hygienic conditions and cleanliness cost around INR6, 500 to each Indian every year. The World Bank in 2006 estimated that India was losing 6.4 percent of gross domestic product annually because of poor sanitation.
The benefits of Clean India are not restricted to the health and hygiene benefits but it has several other benefits as well. There is no element of doubt that a clean environment will ultimately lead to a healthy environment. A healthy environment will be able to sustain a healthy population which means a higher productivity of the labour leading to overall higher productivity of the economy.
Clean India Mission would also immensely benefit tourism in India. Cleanliness will definitely increase the foreign tourist arrivals in India as foreigners are very particular about cleanliness and hygiene. Tourism is very employment elastic industry and growth of this industry will definitely assist in generation of additional employment. It would also affect several other industries indirectly like hotels, transportation etc. Apart from this it would also bring in the foreign exchange will positively affect the lower strata of the population.
As the clean India will help in saving the additional GDP of around 6.4 percent, it tantamount to an additional saving of 6.4 percent which could be invested in critical sectors.Thus it will help in boosting economy, image building of nation and building investor’s confidence etc. Focus on cleanliness would also help in development of clean development technologies which would further help in keeping the environment clean.
No matter how menial task cleanliness may look, it has great potential for changing the fortunes of the country. Once upon a time, opening a retail store was considered as a business venture of lower middle class but now several multinational corporations are lining up for the same. Walmart has become the Fortune 500 Company by opening retail stores across the world. In the same fashion, how small cleanliness may look at its face, it also carries immense potential to change the fortunes of India.