“I have read in history and folklore that kings in those days used to take rounds of the countryside in disguise to understand if aam admi are happy in their regime. I thought I will also ape that idea and do some MBWA (Managing By Wandering About) in disguise to mainly see for myself how this ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ is working on the ground. I chose to move about in the guise of a Sardar (clearly avoided the pinned stripe suit and all 🙂 ) and do the wandering about this Sunday morning in a Mumbai suburb – Mulund where I was holed up in a friend’s house. I chose Mumbai because of my firm belief that if we clean up Mumbai, we can clean up any place!!. Over the years Mumbai apart from being the “Melting pot” of different cultures, had also become a cold pan of civic apathy.
As I started my morning walk, though its’ a Sunday early morning, as it is typical in Mumbai, the roads are quite busy. And what I saw in that 1 hour walk set me thinking:
- Just next to the gate of the building I stayed, stray dogs were devouring the contents from inside the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) dustbins and thereby littering the whole place. The place was also wreaking with foul stench. If only the bins had tight lids I thought.
- The road adjacent has a large peepal tree under which I saw a heap of banana peels. This must be a regular place of a banana vendor I reckoned, where people come to eat bananas after their meal, eat and throw the peels on the road there itself. After all it is the job of the municipality to clean up the next day!
- Just ahead where a few chawls line up both sides of the road, a young lady was helping her infant kid to do his morning chores right on the side of a drain.
- As I was wondering “if Swachh Bharat will ever become a reality?” a set of volunteers wearing uniformed T-Shirts got down from a bus and swiftly got down to the task of cleaning up both sides of the L.B.S.Marg. I was impressed to see them coming fully prepared with all kinds of paraphernalia needed for cleaning. Interested in knowing about them, I engaged in a conversation with an elderly gentleman who seemed like a leader of the group. He mentioned that like-minded people have all come together to do their bit in response to the Prime Minister’s clarion call to clean up India. So every Sunday they spend 3 hours in different parts of Mumbai and today was Mulund’s turn. Not bad I thought.
- Just as I watched them cleaning, there were dividers on the road with signage of “Green Mumbai, Clean Mumbai”. One could hardly read the signage properly as they were half buried in red paan stains. I thought to my mind that this paan chewing is a curse for our country. Many young and old, rich and poor, literate and illiterate, men and women all take the pleasure of chewing paan and spit the red juice on the roads, walls, steps, stairs in short wherever. No amount of the poor volunteers cleaning week after week is going to make India clean if this paan spitting is not stopped in public places. Ills of spitting in public itself can be a topic of one “Man Ki Baat” broadcast.
- While I was pondering on this, I saw a pretty young girl in her teens walking her dog and she wanted me get out of her way. I stopped my MBPA (Managing By Pondering About 🙂 ), mumbled a Sorry and moved to the side. She walked ahead and then stopped for a while as her dog pooped well, yes on the road. The PYT got immersed on her phone while her pet nastied the public place and then continued to walk when her pet finished its quota of Aswachh Bharat Abhiyan 😦 😦 . In most of the developed countries pet owners are required to clean up their pet poop.
- As I turned towards the corner and headed back to my place, I saw a paan shop littered with cigarette buds and Gutka packets (And I thought Gutka was banned in Mumbai!), crushed sugar cane trash of a juice vendor lying on the road so on and so forth. Can’t they have small dustbins outside their outlets and get their customers litter into them?
The one hour stroll in Mumbai was enough for me to understand where the campaign is working and where it is not.
- While it is good to nominate celebrities and entities to get involved in the programme to get visibility and continuous awareness, that in itself is not enough
- Any amount of cleaning is not enough unless aam admis realize that they should not litter in public places.
- And in public places there aren’t enough dustbins.
- Cities with more population are dirtier than smaller towns and villages.
On my flight back to Delhi itself I thought of the next steps for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
- Focus first on the 6 metro cities, then next 14, then the next 30 and so on. Build on one success after another.
- Carrot and Stick approach towards implementation of the programme. Rewards for success and introduce stiff fines as deterrence.
- Call a meeting of the municipality heads in these cities to get them involved.
- Get Municipality wards to provide dustbins in every conceivable public place. Involve large corporates to give dustbins as CSR initiative.
- Competition among wards and awards for the cleanest wards.
- Involve set of NGOs to do repeated door to door campaigning for creating awareness about not strewing in public. Duplicate the success of the door to door polio eradication campaign.
- Collect all who are involved in begging and “transform” them to “Swachhata watchmen”. Find a way to empower them to collect “On the spot” fines when they catch people red handed for paan spitting, not cleaning up dog poops,…
- Request the celebrities who have been nominated to focus on spreading awareness about not littering rather than just spend few hours cleaning with a jaadu.
- Tell Arun Jaitleyji to levy a x% cess on companies earning more than 100 Crore profit in a year in the forthcoming budget to fund the campaign
- And finally in order to put the foundation for a clean India, call up Smriti behen and get her ministry to include importance of public cleanliness in school curriculum to indoctrinate “Swachhata” from childhood.
As the Prime Minister of this country who brought the issue of cleanliness to the public agenda, I have to keep a watch on this Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and make sure that this campaign succeeds. We indeed have to wake up to a “Clean India” in Oct 2019. And for that if I have to disguise myself and make more clandestine trips to different parts of the country and continuously crowdsource ideas so be it” !!!
That was a bit of imagination going wild – as if our PM Narendra Modi himself hits the ground to check what’s happening and taking some corrective actions!!!
Image courtesy: India Today