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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Wielding the broom and cleaning the nation


Wednesday, 01 October 2014 | Ashwani Lohani | in Oped

The Clean India campaign embodies the Mahatma’s ‘cleanliness is godliness’ slogan. It has the potential to revolutionise the Indian mind, body and soul
The launch of Clean India campaign on October 2 is perhaps the best tribute that our nation has ever paid to its father, the great saint Mahatma Gandhi. The Mahatma likened cleanliness to godliness, yet unfortunately so far, the nation never really embraced this saying — muck and dirt being commonplace in public and private places. Worst of all has been the spectacle of unclean environment in almost all temples regardless of their holy stature.
It is indeed a problem of mindset that engulfs the entire nation, a mindset that fails to appreciate the impact that a clean environment can have on delivery and also on happiness levels of the people thronging the environment. And, therefore, we have dirty offices, dirty markets, dirty temples, dirty railway stations and dirty trains and so on with almost everyone blaming the society at large for the state of affairs. It is indeed a classic case of the great indian blame game where everyone finds the others blameworthy.
It is also a stark reality that economic status does not play a role in the cleanliness of a place. We are often witness to garbage being thrown on the roads by people travelling in swanky cars, even in cities like Mumbai and Delhi that call themselves modern.
The Varna system that classifies society in four major groups with the Shudra, who is generally considered to be in the ‘cleaner’ category being placed at the bottom, is also to blame. There is hardly any rationale behind expecting excellence in work by someone devoid of basic dignity that human beings deserve. The existence of the safaiwala is denied by society yet, he is expected to keep places spic and span. The sheer act of cleanliness is looked down upon, yet a clean environment is desired by all and sundry. This attitude has to change and dignity of labor restored.
The wielding of the broom by the high and mighty of the nation on Gandhi Jayanti should, therefore, be much more than a mere photo opportunity. It also has to extend beyond mere symbolism as the intent this time is apparently genuine. The Prime Minister, it appears, genuinely believes that a clean environment is the precursor to growth and progress and his intent and push should, therefore, not be allowed to wither away. 
The campaign, however, needs to extend beyond mere cleanliness of places and percolate the intangible world. During the last 10 years, the nation witnessed the rock bottom in the realm of ethics in governance. Rampant corruption marred almost all acts of governance and ethics were conspicuous by their sheer absence in the bureaucratic and political systems. Even events of national pride like the Commonwealth Games were juiced to the hilt, regardless of the beating taken by the national image. And almost every single Government contract was viewed as a means of amassing wealth. Ethical behaviour become a rarity. Literally cleaning the act of governance itself is perhaps the order of the day.
It is from this abyss that the nation now has to rise. Why is dealing with Government a nightmare for the common man and the towering corporate alike? Why should change form an essential part of the rhetoric and not be a reality on the ground? Why has our tryst with destiny been belied with the nation not being able to solve the basic issue of poverty even after almost 67 years of its independence? These fundamental questions should churn our minds while we, on October 2, wield the broom.
It is perhaps now or never. Rapidly changing times are upon us and the nation appears poised to once again achieve the state where the entire citizenry can take pride in being an Indian. After all, it is not mere rhetoric that can motivate and instill pride; only real change can.

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