With a pledge, a social media blitz and an ice bucket challenge-like campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday launched the “Swachh Bharat” campaign in Delhi. Aimed at making India clean by 2019, and symbolically kicked off on Gandhi Jayanti, Modi urged all citizens to be a part of the campaign that he termed “beyond politics” and “patriotic”.
Aiming to turn “Swachh Bharat” into a national programme and freeing it from bureaucratic red tape, Modi invited people from various walks of life to be part of the campaign. He initiated a chain, on the lines of the ALS ice bucket challenge, inviting nine personalities through social media to take up the challenge to clean India.
“I have invited Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, Baba Ramdev, Shashi Tharoor, Kamal Haasan, Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Ambani and the entire team of Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma. I expect them to further extend invitations to nine more,” he said. “Social media will bring about a revolution in this cleanliness drive,” Modi said.
Modi’s day began with a visit to Rajghat in the morning before a pre-planned visit to Valmiki Sadan, where he inaugurated a bio-digester toilet. En route, the PM stopped over at the Mandir Marg police station for an unscheduled check. On finding a part of the police station area littered, Modi picked up a broom and swept it, even as police officers rushed to join him.
Addressing a mixed crowd comprising government school students, BJP leaders and workers, and government employees at Rajpath, he said, “I said as much from the ramparts of Red Fort then and I will say it again. Every government before us worked for such an ideal. Under Gandhiji, the Congress ran a similar campaign. And I would like to greet all government agencies who have worked to keep India clean, whether they are from sarvodaya or from Seva Dal. I believe cultural, religious and political leaders have done their bit to keep the country clean.”
In his half-an-hour speech, he said, “We are celebrating the birth anniversary of Lal Bahadur Shastri too. It’s because of his slogan, ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’, that there was abundance of foodgrain in the country. I ask all of you to devote at least 100 hours of your time every year to achieve the goal of a clean India.”
The PM also announced that he had started #MyCleanIndia campaign on Twitter. “If you see garbage anywhere, please take a picture and upload on social media. Then take a video of you cleaning it and then upload the photo of the clean spot too. I urge the media to bring out stories of people who have set an example by making their areas clean. Every small story will encourage thousands. Recognising such people is not a political move but is an act of patriotism. And Modi will be one of the names among them.”
Before administering the clean India pledge to those present on the lawns of India Gate, the PM said, “I would like to ask all of you whether safai karmacharis are solely responsible for keeping the country clean. Take this task as a service to Mother India. We should know we are doing a disservice to nation when we litter. I know the task to make India clean by 2019 is a tough one. But, with support from all of you, we know we will be able to achieve it. People, after touring countries abroad, praise them for their cleanliness. I ask, have you seen their citizens littering? It is clean because everyone participates in keeping it clean.”
The PM also quoted a few statistics from WHO to support the campaign. “According to the WHO report, poor sanitation costs every Indian Rs 6,500 per year. Don’t trust me or my government but trust Mahatma Gandhi’s dream for a clean India,” he said.
(With inputs from Naveed Iqbal)