Modi Invites Celebrities
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat, or Clean India, Mission on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and making an appeal for a non-political movement driven by patriotism.
The Mission will aim to make India ‘clean’ by October 2, 2019, Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, Mr. Modi said. This goal will include the elimination of open defecation, which he called a “blot on society”, especially for women and young girls.
Mr. Modi flagged off the mission at Valmiki Basti, a housing society in central Delhi for sanitation workers, in which Mahatma Gandhi once stayed for a short while. The PM swept a small area, paid his respects at a temple, dedicated public toilets to residents and conducted a surprise sanitation inspection on the local police station, news agencies reported. Trying to strike a non-political note, Mr. Modi said that patriotism and not politics should inspire the mission. Cleanliness should not be the job of sanitation workers alone, he said.
Apart from crowd-sourcing the logo and slogan for the Mission, Mr. Modi also asked citizens to take photos of garbage, upload them on social media, upload videos of them cleaning the spot, and finally upload a picture of the clean spot. He also invited nine people – Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, Shashi Tharoor, cricket star Sachin Tendulkar, actors Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Kamal Haasan, industrialist Anil Ambani, yoga practitioner Baba Ramdev, and the crew of the TV serial Tarak Mehta ka Ulta Chashma – to join him in his cleanliness mission, and asked them to further nominate another nine, and so on.
Mr. Khan joined Mr. Modi on stage as the PM administered a pledge to the crowd that they would not litter and keep aside two hours every week to clean their surroundings. The same pledge was administered in government offices across the country.
With its emphasis on not littering, the programme, launched with much fanfare, does not go far enough in addressing India’s real challenges, sanitation experts worry. The PM’s address only briefly mentioned open defecation, and the pledge administered across the country does not talk about toilets or their use either. “Because open defecation kills thousands of babies and stunts the growth of children and of our workforce, we should not let ourselves be distracted from it by litter,” health economist Dean Spears who has shown the link between sanitation and child stunting, told The Hindu.