The Pursuit of a Clean India and Its Enemies

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Thanks to honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ability to spread awareness and reach to large population of the country, the talk of the nation today is about a Clean India. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) has been a game changer at least at our level of consciousness. Initiatives for cleanliness existed earlier as well but hardly anyone knew about any of it. One thing I would like to laud about Mr. Modi and his Government is that people today talk about cleanliness. The politicians, media houses and the people talk about open defecation and keeping cities clean. One notable example in this regard is Akshay Kumar’s “Toilet- Ek Prem Katha” movie. Who would think that we would talk about human excreta at this level?

A great scholar once said that civilization is the distance that man has placed between himself and his own excreta. I can’t agree more. Much of the talk about cleanliness in India is about ending open defecation. The core objective of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is also to make India open defecation free by 2019. Despite areas to be improved, we are moving towards the right path.

But let’s not limit our discussion on Clean India to building toilets and covering shit. Let’s talk about clean roads, clean public toilets, clean government office buildings, and more importantly a clean air as well.

Image: Source

In a landmark development, the Supreme Court of India has banned the sale of fire crackers in Delhi till November 1 of this year. The ban means that people won’t be able to buy fire crackers in Delhi and this may positively limit Delhites firing crazy amount of crackers during Diwali, a religious festival of Hindus, that falls in the third week of October this year. Having lived in Delhi for quite some time, I know the pollution level Delhites are compelled to face post Diwali festival. Last year (2016), there was high level of pollution during Diwali and men, women, children all had to wear pollution masks for many days. Doctors and health experts predicted rise in pulmonary, respiratory and other air pollution-related diseases. People were advised to stay indoors. Many people protested against the rise of pollution level in the atmosphere.

But the irony is: some people are again criticizing the Supreme Court’s order to ban on the sale of fire crackers during Diwali this year. Some politicians are even inviting Delhites to come to their state and fire crackers to their satisfaction! Some religious figures are saying that the Supreme Court’s order is anti-Hindu! What has become of these so-called ‘leaders’?

I agree that fire crackers are not the only cause of rise in air pollution in Delhi. But, we all should agree that it hugely contributes to the rising air pollution in the capital. Moreover, fire crackers cause not only air pollution but noise pollution as well and make the streets of Delhi extremely dirty. Besides, while most of us are sleeping after a night of celebration, many municipal workers have to wake up and clean the mess created by these senseless people amidst high level of pollution. These workers do not wear any pollution masks and their health is in risk. Who cares for them? None.

The deafening sound of firing crackers also disturb not only humans but animals and birds as well. In all, there is a huge environmental impact of our insensible celebration of this beautiful festival. This festival is supposed to be a peaceful festival of lights and not a war-like festival of bombs. If Lord Rama would be visiting India during Diwali, we would not want to see Him wear pollution masks and put cotton balls in His ears. Personally, I would want Him to come with a beautiful smile, peacefully, without any jump in between when He hears explosion of crackers and bombs, and blessing us freely, not closing His nose with one hand because of the smoke from the crackers. I hope all Hindu brothers and sisters wish the same.

I am of the view that the remarks of certain section of uneducated politicians and communal babas are essentially against the larger interest of the people and the nation. They are inciting people to do what is repudiated as wrongful by the highest court of the country. They are leading the people toward the wrong path. Their statements are against the essence of Clean India Campaign, a flagship program of the Narendra Modi Government, against the welfare of the people in terms of living a healthy and environmentally clean life. They want us to live dirty.

The nation as a collective should strongly reject their communal and politically motivated statements. I would strongly urge the Prime Minister to condemn such statements. The administrative machinery of the country should also effectively communicate to the people why such a ban is necessary and how this, in fact, is for their own good. This ban is of urgent need if we want to save Delhi from the rising air pollution and the related health risk. We should not let these enemies of a united and, yes, Clean India walk through our mind with their dirty feet.

Be clean and remain away from filthy mind! An advance Happy Diwali!

Stand up for what you believe in

Took a rickshaw from Kamla Nagar to Mukherjee Nagar at Rs 50. On the way, I saw a well-dressed gentleman near Daulat Ram College holding a paper cup and throwing it on the road itself and entered into a car. On seeing his action, I asked the rickshaw driver uncle if he ever heard Swachh Bharat Abhiyan campaign by none other than the Prime Minister of India. He enthusiastically said he has heard about it a lot. I felt good.

We proceeded our conversation about cleanliness, how people just throw bottles and other things, and how they spit etc. on the road without caring for cleanliness and others.

Then suddenly he stopped on the roadside in between Miranda House college gate and SGTB Khalsa College and told me that he needed to urinate. I looked around and did not see any toilet or any of that sort there. I politely told him to ride upto GTB Nagar Metro station which is very near and unburden himself there. There is one toilet there. He did not care what I told and urinated on the wall in front of many college going students- many of them were girls. The girls looked away and I felt embarrassed also. The wall was very near to the road and you know how some men here urinate- they never respect themselves and others, no concern and no dignity.

I suddenly felt how effective the Prime Minister’s campaign is! Oh Ghost!

When he came back I told him that the girls were like his own daughter and he should not have urinated on the wall in front of them. ‘Woh meri beti keise hoga? Wohto dusre ka hein’ (How can they be my daughters? They are others’). That was his reply.

Well, sometimes I am very short-tempered but somehow I controlled myself. I must know where in India I am. But I wanted to express my displeasure with his ugly act.

I gave him 30 Rs and got down from the rickshaw. I told him that I cannot sit on a rickshaw rode by a person who cannot respect others. He said whether I could provide ‘suraksha’ (security) to all girls. I said ‘no’ but it was my responsibility to act at the level I can. “Aap bhi kuchto karo. Aapki beti or patni kisi aadmi ko eisa dekhegato woh accha lagega kya?”

With that broken Hindi I left him there. I took an auto from there till Mukherjee Nagar by paying 40 Rs. The auto driver appeared to be a really nice guy. The way he was maintaining the auto was impressive and we talked about it.

I think that the rickshaw driver may not change. But as a human being, he must have felt bad about his action after what I have told him. My action might have embarrassed him (I am not sure) but I wanted him to know that his action was not socially acceptable. Among his friends or people, that may be the norm, but is that norm acceptable in the larger society?

I might be in haste in my taking decision to get down and take an auto leaving him there despite the fact that I paid him for the distance covered. I had to spend extra money for that and I could not tolerate his embarrassing act.

What is acceptable, what is good, which norm should be accepted are moral issues we continue to debate. What I do believe is that we should have a norm which is to respect one another in the society. When people break that, that really hurts me.


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