How many times have we witnessed a passerby throwing bits and pieces of plastic on the road? How many times have we been a mute spectator to such an incident? India is full of such instances of people being careless and nonchalant about their attitude towards cleanliness. India with a population of roughly 1.3 billion is being recognized as a global power in the field of economy, politics, science and technology. We have even reached the surface of the south pole of the moon, yet we have not made strides towards achieving a Swachh Bharat as we become a mature democracy of 72 years.
Years ago, Mahatma Gandhi glorified the idea of cleanliness in his much revered statement, “sanitation is more important than independence.” Mahatma Gandhi was not only leading a fight against for the independence of India from British rule, but also the freedom of India from the caste system itself. In pre and post Independent India, the people involved in cleaning sewers and drains belonged to lower caste communities and are infamously known as manual scavengers.
Manual scavengers are responsible for cleaning human excreta from dry toilets and sewers in various pockets of India in the most unhygienic conditions. The practice of manual scavenging has been condemned by Mahatma Gandhi and banned in India through The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines Prohibition Act in 1993. However, the menace and rehabilitation of manual scavengers still remains a grave issue. The rebirth of the idea of cleanliness in the form of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan is a declaration of war against the practice of manual scavenging and age old practices which strayed away from sanitation and cleanliness.
The Swachh Bharat Mission was launched in the year 2014 by the Government of India which led to the beginning of India’s transformation into a more cleanliness-conscious nation. The Clean India campaign has converted into a movement which has allowed significant changes in the average Indian attitude towards cleanliness and sanitation. On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary and the success of he mission, individuals in various parts of India have responded by coming out on streets with a broomstick on one hand in order to begin with the process of cleaning the streets of their respective towns, cities and villages.
One such initiative was organised by a group of ladies from a remote village located in Kamrup district of Assam called Patgaon. The women who participated in the cleanliness drive are mostly homemakers. Since the inception of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, this group of women have dedicatedly cleaned the village and the surrounding areas without fail every year on October 2. These unnamed warriors of cleanliness achieve no applause or laurels for their unwavering faith in the cleanliness mission. The women of village Patgaon are an example of a new India where women are participating with full gusto in the nation building process.
Today, India is one of the first nations to prioritise sanitation as an important stepping stone towards socio-economic development and progress. The new India will be a nation which is a role model for other nations to follow. India’s success will heavily rely upon the creation of an atmosphere of inclusivity which will encourage the participation of people in the process of building a great nation by the people and for the people. Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is a unique step towards achieving the objective of an inclusive and clean India.