“Cleanliness is next to godliness.” We have been incorporated with this thought since time immemorial. India, being the ancient land of seekers, which gave the world one of the first civilizations, was characterized by the cleanest and greenest cities [1
]. With time, an amalgamation of new cultures takes place and its collective ideology transcends. Cleanliness is one such behaviouristic approach we have merged into our lives. Cleanliness does not necessarily have to be physical and linked with dusting, brooming, and wiping; rather it is about maintaining personal sanitation, as well. Besides offering clean surroundings, it also incorporates a habit of personal hygiene which encompasses a healthy body, mind, and soul. Something that is inclusive, socially uplifting, and soothing.
Cleanliness has been exemplified by our glorious elders. Who else could be a better flag bearer than the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi, who himself used to clean the toilet [3
By this habit of him, Bapu not only cleaned the toilet or surrounding rather set an example for the millions to follow [4
]. In the same context, how hygiene was perceived during the traditional Indian system; speaks volumes of the ideals we have been following [5
There are a lot of diseases that are caused by dirty stagnant water, garbage, or foul air. If one could just peep into the statistics the death toll exceeds beyond 12.6 million, courtesy of this unclean and unhygienic environment [6
]. In the present scenario, it is observed that our cities are not clean as they are supposed to be. We rank 177th among 180 countries in the Global cleanliness index [7
] due to the lack of cleanliness and fault committed on our behalf. Statistics do not lie. At the same time, we have Asia’s cleanest village Mawlynnong, located in the Meghalaya province [8
]. We need to monitor things closely. There are several articles citing how cleanliness has impacted health, life expectancy, emotional, and socio-behavioral changes in people.
|Mawlynnong Village Courtesy of traveltriangle.com
Since its inception on October 2nd, 2014, cleanliness has been seen as a mass movement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, initiated the drive with the Swachhta marathon and pledge. Then began the chain of nominations where one concerned official invited nine other stakeholders with a public image to motivate the masses. There are different Non-Governmental Organizations working in parallel with the government authorities to make India clean. One such anonymous group called “The Ugly Indians” are cleaning our streets, open urinal areas, and pavements [9
]. The rear walls of many institutions are plagued with posters and Paan stains. Besides cleaning those dirty areas, these individuals are educating the locals about the benefits associated with cleanliness and healthy surroundings.
I am taking the liberty to present an example from my personal perspective. Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh province has colloquially been called the city of Parda, Zarda, and Garda. While the Parda or veil has no obligations as such, however, Garda (Dust) and Zarda wreaked havoc on the city’s surroundings and the basic healthcare system. After the cleanliness effort, things have been changing for the better good and improving exponentially. Now Bhopal is India’s second cleanest city (2017-18 data) [10
Open defecation is a major setback to India’s cleanliness drive. Excreting in vulnerable areas such as farmland, roadside or railways track invite various diseases such as Diarrhoea, Cholera, Dengue, Malaria and other worm diseases. Coupled with these infections other inhumane gestures such as rape and lynching prevail due to the same [11
]. With Government efforts and public awareness, currently, eleven states are declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) [12
]. Today, October 2nd, 2019, Urban India is declared ODF [13
]. India has significantly eliminated Polio, Neonatal tetanus and there is a reduction in the onset of several other diseases such as HIV, TB, Malaria, etc. Merely with cleanliness and adopting good hygiene a lot of diseases and symptoms thereof, can be kicked off. This way the cleanliness initiative has the most implications in the health sector which has traditionally been paralyzed due to the unhygienic environment.
|Open Defecation Free India Courtesy of The Hindu
Interestingly, an open defecation-free state ensures proper sanitation and saves medical expenditure which would otherwise have been levied upon the individuals. This has also drastically improved the living standard of individuals. With Swachh Bharat Abhiyan
(Rural) more than five Billion toilets have been built in the past four years [14
]. This has excluded cast bases segregation of the society. Manual scavenging is another issue to be addressed under this cleanliness mission. The cleaning staff has long been looked down upon even though they have worked for sanitation and social well-being.
It is praiseworthy that all major government institutions including AIIMS are also involved in this mission. If the premise and the campuses of the institutes are clean, it will automatically send a message far deeper than lectures can penetrate into. A clean hospital is vital for the health of the staff, patients, and other concerned persons. There are a plethora of contagious diseases which are propagated because of transmission through unclean water, air, garbage dumps, etc. These potential threats can escalate rapidly if our hospitals are not clean.
It is said that “A Healthy mind resides in a healthy body”. This notion has recently been brought about by the cleanliness drive. if controversies are put aside, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan itself has motivated masses from all walks of life to effectively take part in this mass movement. Never before has this enthusiasm against garbage dumping been seen before. Our Railways, cities, bus stops, and public places are getting cleaner daily. We can observe painted murals, and dustbins being installed in every other public place. This drive must invite all the policymakers, stakeholders, and citizens to come under a single roof and participate in a cleaner and better India.
Clean India has been the dream of Mahatma Gandhi. We have long been dirty and unhygienic. The need of the hour is to break that stereotype and pledge ourselves toward a clean healthy India. I am optimistic about the current generation that realizes the potential of a clean India. You and I can let that dream of Mahatma translate into reality by 2019. I shall end on a parting note with the motto of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Banega Swachh India.
Let us pave our ways towards Cleanliness: Ek Kadam Swachhta ki Or