By Archish Mazumdar
Edited by Namitha Sadanand, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
The last time someone in Indian politics decided to wield the broom, trying to clean up the system, it did not result in a quintessential ‘happily ever-after’. This time, although the weapon of choice remains the same, the wielders are quite different.
On the occasion of the 145th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Narendra Modi, officially kick-started the “Swacch Bharat Abhiyan” (Clean India Campaign), from the Valmiki Basti in New Delhi, himself wielding a ‘jhadoo’. And all of a sudden, the nation has witnessed a social overhaul with everyone joining in to contribute towards a cleaner India.
But while this is all necessary and welcome, one is but left to wonder if this is, in fact, enough.
Being a third world country, the issue of cleanliness is a pressing issue especially when we aspire to reach the standards set by our contemporaries. But an equally pressing matter is that of poverty and one to which we still do not have a solution. In fact, on a closer look, one would find that though the issues may seem entirely different, they are in essence related. Let’s look at some of the measures being taken:-
- People are now planting more and more saplings, but the cause of deforestation still remains unattended to.
Deforestation is effectively caused due to increased urbanization. With greater amounts of the populace wanting to live in cities, the authorities continue to face an acute space crunch. This drives people from restricted economic status groups to live in slums, which are one of the primary sources of unclean areas. It is these people that are the greatest sufferers of communicable diseases and other health and sanitation issues.
- Air pollution still remains a major source of pollution primarily due to the continued use of brick kilns/chulhas.
As long as poverty continues to be a problem India suffers from, the idea of providing its citizens cleaner air to breathe remains delusional. Brick klins/chulhas are still the primary source of fuel for people coming from lower economic backgrounds. Asking them to move towards cleaner yet expensive fuel is not only foolhardy but extremely unfair to them on our part.
Thus we see, that poverty and hygiene are interconnected through a vast web of choices and consequences. It is this idea that leads me to believe that the Clean India Campaign, though begun with the right intentions is effectively not a very pertinent solution. It may be a step in the right and very much desired direction, but not the absolute answer. The government needs to understand that as long as India remains poverty-ridden, its citizens will keep feeling the crunch on the levels of health and sanitation.
So what is the way out?
The way out, is an integrated system that not only looks to provide cleanliness to the nation but also attacks the primary cause of the same. The Clean India Campaign, may have its heart in the right place and may as its bedrock present several health and economic benefits, but it will always come up short for it does not seek to address the problem of wealth disparity, succinctly present in the nation today.
Narendra Modi, has brought in one of the more path breaking campaigns and for that reason alone he deserves to be very highly regarded for a man with his power. It is but this quality of doing the small things right, which lends him the luminous title of a visionary. If only within his first five years of his reign he begins a similar campaign to eradicate India of its most crippling disease, will he etch his name in the pantheons of greatness.
Archish Mazumdar is your normal everyday college-kid, currently in his third year of college, pursuing a BS in Economics from IIT Kanpur. His passions in life include quizzing, debating and food! Quick in both words and actions, he usually finds solace while writing (mostly poetry). He spends his free time reading vociferously, watching movies (plenty of them) and listening to Bob Dylan. When not doing the usual stuff, he is mostly found convincing people that he is not actually jobless.