Swachh Bharat is a flagship scheme launched by the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, three years back and since then the government has made big claims praising the scheme but the ground reality in the clean–up mission so far is not encouraging. While it is a basic social obligation stressed by the saying ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’, the idea was reiterated by Mahatma Gandhi who said sanitation was more important than political freedom. That was picked up by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who announced the programme from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August, 2014. The fact remains that it is not a programme that can be accomplished by the efforts of the official machinery spending government funds without bringing about a mindset change and creating a sense of cleanliness among the people at large. The sincerity of purpose of the Prime Minister should of course, be lauded, but the goal can hardly be achieved without bringing an attitudinal change among masses and classes. It is a Herculean task for any government. Efforts can be made by the government, but it cannot be taken as a project or mission.
With the announcement, the people started showering praise on the Prime Minister and hundreds of programmes were taken up in which Ministers and government officials took brooms and started cleaning streets. These programmes were more of photo opportunities rather than any sincere attempt to achieve the cause. We have commented on these shows in these columns many a time in the past. Now the Prime Minister realized the fact and admitted that government could not achieve the motto without the participation of the people. On October 3, the Prime Minister was addressing a meeting organized on the third anniversary of the programme in New Delhi. Prime Minister sought popular participation to make the programme a success. It was an admission on his part when he said even a 1000 Gandhis and a lakh Modis would not succeed unless the mission is adopted by 125 crore Indians. Even speaking of hurdles and obstacles in the way he expressed his determination to take the programme forward.
He also asked the media and opposition parties not to criticize the programme. He said they could flay him on any subject but this one. The point being made here is not to find fault with the government, but to explain the ground reality. Besides making efforts to create awareness among the people, what the government can do is to make the civic and municipal bodies financially strong to concentrate on their main goal of cleaning the towns and cities. Ironically these elected municipalities and corporations are usually the cesspools of corruption. If the functioning of these bodies is up to the mark, at least 50 per cent of cleaning job of towns and cities can be achieved. The other 50 per cent depends on the civic sense of citizens who are the key players. The contrast between claims and deeds can be witnessed from the reported fact that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi was issued central government funds in 2014-15; no money has been given since then. Is it political rivalry or something else?