Can you guess the location of the picture?
Frankly, it could be any place in India. Filthy road-side habits coupled with piles of garbage littered around has become a trademark of our country. It is sad that India, who invented flush toilets is the same country where most people have no toilets in their house. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Sanitation is more important than political independence.” Then why, even after 68 years of independence is clean India still a dream? The irony is everyone wants to see a clean India, the people, the government…but everyone expects others to do it. So, when our prime minister, Narendra Modi took it upon himself to pick a broom, and start a campaign for swachh Bharat, he was considered a pioneer. It triggered an enthusiasm among the people.
Banega Swachh India
RB and NDTV partnered to launch a five year ambitious programme, Banega Swachh India to address the sanitation and hygiene needs in India. The campaign aims at promoting awareness about sanitation and hygiene, and also team up with NGO’s to build infra-structure and toilets in India. This is an alarming task considering the nature of the campaign, and the current state of the country.
As a part of this campaign, swachh express was flagged off, which aimed to create awareness among the people by interactive videos, distributing flyer, hand-washing sessions, etc. Swachh India is not just about taking a broom and cleaning up your area, but maintaining good sanitation practices like not littering the streets with garbage,avoiding defecating in the open, and also includes personal hygiene like washing hands. In short, it is a campaign to promote a healthy India along with Swachh India.
When Nihal from Indiblogger called to inform me, that I could join the swachh express during their journey in Maharashtra state, I was jubilant. Thus, I got to experience the live working of the campaign, and record how it affected/influenced the people.
The crew was compact with ten people.
Saurabh Khanna, the producer who coordinated between the production control, the source and the crew.
Manoj Kumar from administration: He took care of every little detail and ensured the smooth functioning of the crew.
Sanjay Kaushik, the camera man and his assistant Mohit: Mr. Sanjay not only recorded everything, but his sunny nature maintained the friendly atmosphere of the crew.
Thomas and Jigmendra who efficiently handled the swachh India bus. Balbir and Kuldeep,the drivers.
Vinod Kumar Pathak: MSW and health awareness worker from Feedback Foundation(Knowledge Partner). He had an extensive knowledge about sanitation measures, and the skill to draw the attention of people towards health and hygiene problems.
Yogesh Damle, the reporter: He was present only for the first two days. He knew everything about the areas we visited.
Day one- Pune
On my first day with swachh express, we went to Yadav Baba School at Valti to educate the students about the importance of sanitation and hygiene. When, Mr. Vinod Pathak, the knowledge partner, asked the students whether they had toilets in their house or they have to defecate in the open, the kids were ashamed to admit about the lack of toilets. However, Vinodji, slowly drew them out of their shells, then proceeded to explain them the ill-effects of open defecation.
He also taught them the importance of hand-washing and the technique. Did you know that there is a definite method of washing hands to get rid of maximum germs? Vinodji explained the technique stepwise divided into 18 steps.He made the students practice, and also called some of them to demonstrate the method on stage. He advised the teachers to make the students practice the technique every day when the school starts in the morning.
He proceeded to demonstrate to the students, the difference between washing hands with soap as opposed to washing them with plain water, with the help of a small experiment.
Teaching the students good hygiene practices, and increasing their cleanliness quotient is an integral part for swachh India. After all, they are the ones who need to maintain the swachh India, once it is achieved.
Day 2 – Raigad
When we talk about sanitation, the civic authorities have as much a role to play as the general public. Most of the times, we see piles of garbage overflowing from the trash can, which hasn’t been emptied for days. Matheran with it’s dutiful civic authorities, proves that a dedicated local government can bring about a great change in making swachh India. Therefore, swachh express decided to pay Matheran a visit to bring into forefront the model, for other local authorities to emulate.
Petrol and diesel vehicles are banned in Matheran. Only horses, palkis, are the means of transport. We had to take a mini-train from Aman lodge to reach Matheran.
The civic authority in Matheran has taken some important measures to keep Matheran clean.
- There are Billboards in Matheran which emphasize on cleanliness and warn the tourists that they will be penalized for throwing trash on the road.
- These billboards are accompanied by trash cans at regular intervals. This feature is missing in many Indian cities. The presence of trash-cans makes it easier to dispose trash, and most of the people use the trash cans.
Read about the condition in Mumbai: The city needs trash cans
- The trash cans are emptied every morning. ( again, a feature which is absent in many cities)
- Matheran has an efficient waste disposal system. All the garbage is collected and segregated to separate plastics from organic wastes. The waste is passed through a mixer, and then condensed into a pulp which is transfered to a bio-gas plant, which converts it into methane. It is used to run the generators while the slurry is dried, and used as a fertilizer. Every day about 80 cc of gas is produced which is stored in the balloon room. It is used to light around 150 street lights, govt. offices and sometimes, during power cut, to provide electricity to the city.
Day 3- Thane
The third day took us to a remote village, Poman in Thane district. It is a small village with no good internal roads, and no direct water supply to the houses. Only three houses had toilets in the house, while the rest of the community defecated in the open. Most of the people did not even have documents like ration card to claim benefits from government schemes. The village presented a pitiful contrast with the nearby city.
When Mr. Pathak, the knowledge partner started talking about sanitation measures, some people turned antagonistic and tried to create some problems. On further probing, this was what we understood. Most of the government schemes or benefits never reached the village. Some people were in an inebriated condition even in the morning. Some of these people (the intoxicated ones) had received some financial help to build toilets, which they had spent on alcohol. These people now, expected the government to build free toilets.
This village made me realize that though the civic authorities are the culprits most of the times, the real problem of the country is the lack of civic responsibility of our people.
The way towards Swachh india isn’t smooth. The swachh express had to go through many challenges. The express had to reach the villages before they left for work. Similarly, Banega Swachh India will have to go through many trials, the most difficult would be to reach out to the people and bring about change. Bad habits are hard to break, be it open defecation, spitting on the road side, or throwing trash on the streets. The civic authorities need to improve too. Patience, perseverance, and team work is the key towards our goal. I would like to observe the progress of Banega Swachh India, and record the changes after five years.
I was also impressed with sense of social responsibility of Dettol (RB) and NDTV. The crew told me, that NDTV regularly undertakes many special projects for various causes. And my first hand experience has shown me that these projects aren’t some publicity gimmicks, but a sincere attempt for the betterment of our community.
Have you done your bit for clean India? To know more about the #SwachhIndia campaign check Banega Swachh India.