By Kaavya Nair
Edited by, Namrata Caleb, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist
“Slumdog Millionaire” is often critiqued to have shown the bad, the dirty, and the ugly side of India- the side of India which we never wished for the world to see, the side that we all live in, day in and day out, yet never do anything to change. Look at any Indian street, we have horrendous civic standards, we tolerate an incredible amount of filth. “It’s the governments fault!”, “The mentality of Indians will never change”, “The system is stupid”, all these are always said when something is wrong in the system. But did the Oscar winning movie show anything untrue? No.
This is not about the money, corruption or power play. This is about the attitudes, rooted behaviour. So, if it’s about the deeply rooted cultural behaviour, the situation is unlikely to change because “we are like that only”, Right? A group of anonymous citizens refused to accept this and thus came about ‘The Ugly Indian’ (TUI).
Originating from Bangalore, ‘The Ugly Indian’ is a movement of anonymous citizens working as volunteers together to clean up the streets of the city. The volunteers choose small segments of road each week to clean: pavements piled up with plastic, defaced walls, footpaths rendered unusable by potholes as ‘spot-fixing’ places, with the simple wish to live in a cleaner society. The Ugly Indian’s philosophy is “Stop Talking, Start Doing.” Yet, while this movement was successful, its reach was very limited. The message that these dedicated group of self-driven, self- motivated individuals had been trying to spread since its inception in 2010 finally gained ears, with the launch of ‘ Swaach Bharat’ by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Sanitation is more important than independence”, Mahatma Gandhi once said. He dreamt of a clean India, a dream that the Prime Minister now wishes to fulfil. ‘Swaach Bharat’ is a national level campaign by the Government of India covering 4041 statutory towns to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country to bring about a cleaner India, through the involvement of the citizens of the country. The basic message of this initiative is that, “if every individual did the simple task of cleaning the street that they live on, on a large scale it would lead to a clean country.” The aim is to create sanitation, higher levels of hygiene and remove the unhealthy practice of responding to natures call in public with the provision of toilets to every rural household by 2019.
This nationwide campaign has in large, two major advantages for a developing country like India. Perhaps, the greatest advantage of this campaign is the reduced health risks. Statistics show that open defaction kills about a thousand children on an annual basis, which can be reduced with the presence of toilets in every household. Better sanitation and waste management activities will lead to a rise in the general level of hygiene which would reduce the health risks that people face.
Substantially, it is also directly linked to the economic activities of the country. Cleanliness is connected to tourism and increases the global appeal of a country. With better sanitation facilities and cleaner roads and infrastructure, it would bring in more tourists from the world over. This would generate a greater spending capacity and lead to wider job opportunities increasing the GDP of the country.
It has been asserted, and rightly so, that ‘Swaach Bharat’ is a combined effort of both the government and the people. Every citizen should work towards cleanliness and be an active participant, rather than waiting for the government to be the sole operative. The act is spreading, the streets are looking a little cleaner, and the attitudes of the people are changing. If a few can do it, why not all? After all, the journey to a cleaner India begins with a single step.
Kaavya Nair is a currently a second year Political Science major at Miranda House, University of Delhi. She is passionate about liberal arts and obsessed about issues of International significance. An avid debater and a passionate writer she strongly believes that a dedicated youth working together can create change for the better, and hopes to positively impact the world through her passion and dedication for words.