BY PRABHAKAR TIMBLE
THE Prime Minister has given an enthusiastic and passionate call for ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ to realise Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of cleanliness. The Mahatma’s visualisation of cleanliness was three-pronged – a clean mind, a clean body and clean surroundings. Holding that ‘Cleanliness is next to godliness’, he emphatically wrote, “We can no more gain God’s blessing with an unclean body than with an unclean mind. A clean body cannot reside in an unclean city” (Young India 19/11/1925).
For Gandhi, cleanliness did not mean mere public sanitation and hygiene. He performed Satyagraha to protest the ban on entry to Dalits in temples. He told a Hindu to adopt an orphaned Muslim child after the man blamed Muslims for the death of his son. The solutions that the Mahatma offered were out of the box to clean the communal divide and the agony of Partition. His famous quote “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet” sums up Gandhi’s vision of Clean Bharat. His fundamentals were strong and clear when he exhorted youth to swim with or against tradition but never sink in tradition.
Following the call of the Prime Minister, the broom is in demand and its value is shooting up with Narendra Modi urging everyone to devote minimum two hours every week towards cleanliness. Needless to say that the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is the crying need, as India, the otherwise recognized religious and spiritual capital of the world is also well-known as the filthiest country on the globe. Our cities, government offices, public utilities, water bodies and the temple surroundings are stinking with dirt, garbage and muck.
Swachnarayan and Devi Swachnarayani
Union ministers, chief ministers and government officers holding the broom attempting to clean the already neatly kept spaces are symbolic gestures. They hardly inspire and may not be meant to be so. However, they announce the commencement of the
It was in September, 1996 that Gurunath Kelekar, a veteran freedom-fighter and managing trustee of the Movement for Amity towards Roads in Goa (MARG) initiated the idea of worshipping cleanliness, christening it as ‘Swachnarayan Pooja’. Through MARG and likeminded citizens, the design was taken to the streets in Bicholim, Curchorem, Ponda, Margao, Canacona, Vasco, Panaji and Pednem.
Let the government do what it can and wants to do. Towns and cities will never stay clean unless the citizens imbibe the value and take ownership. Gurunath Kelekar, through the MARG, continues to stimulate youth and citizens to adopt cleanliness as a value. For him, a safai kamgar should be viewed as health worker. Social organisations of all types should take up to cleanliness drives as a regular activity. The government as the employer, the corporate as social responsibility and social organisations as groups of citizens with civic sense should raise the self-esteem of such health workers through proper uniform, equipment, containers, gloves, masks, standing brooms and brushes.
Madhu Kishwar, social activist and editor of the celebrated Manushi, a magazine focusing on women’s issues picked up the seeds from Goa and created a miracle in the life of the hawkers in Delhi. What could not be achieved through constant orientation and persuasion became possible by creating the goddess of cleanliness. The new deity “Swachh Narayani” did to Sewa Nagar Market in Delhi what the 33-crore gods of the Hindus failed to accomplish. The goddess has a number of arms holding broomstick to underscore cleanliness, pen to signify power of reason over sword and calculator to imbibe value of honesty in transactions. The goddess also holds a clock and scales to represent justice for all. The devotees are Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, all bound by the goddess to keep the area clean and business flourishing. It was a successful attempt to inject civic discipline through Devi Swachnarayani.
Since the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is positioned as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary to be celebrated in 2019, the government cannot afford to limit cleanliness to kachra safai. According to Gandhi, for the poor the economic is spiritual. Take this Gandhian clue, we need to realise that the talk of modern progress, infrastructure development, FDI, Make in India, global giant and lifetime Indian visa to NRIs/PIO cardholders would be an insult to the starving, underfed and homeless millions. The message of Hindutva and national pride is good to those sitting after a nice breakfast, looking forward towards a nicer luncheon and later a pleasant dinner. Cleanliness in the Gandhian sense would transcend to refuse to have what millions cannot. In other words, it would mean a deliberate initiative by the middle class, having reached comfortable economic limits, to ensure that acche din knock the classes less privileged and more deprived than them.
The urban middles class wants clean cities but their contribution to the cause is the weakest. Neither political leaders nor citizens are participating in the problem. Unless each one decides to participate in cleanliness, the miracle cannot happen if left only to the hired safai kamgar. What is also needed is to give up our scorn and contempt to those who keep our cities clean. A Clean Bharat demands a mass movement. Making it a movement of a single political party would do no good to the Abhiyan.
Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness
BY PRABHAKAR TIMBLE