The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India mission was launched by the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi on 2nd Oct 2014. This is an incredible initiative for a cleaner India by 2019 which marks the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. It will be a fitting tribute to the man who advocated cleanliness in every walk of his life. He once famously said “So long as you do not take the broom and the bucket in your hands, you cannot make your towns and cities clean” and this seems to be the mantra of the Swachh Bharat campaign.
My understanding of the project
1. The Ministry of Urban development has been given the task of creating and implementing the project.
2. The Prime Minister has taken the initiative of naming celebrities as ambassadors of this campaign. It’s a hugely clever move because celebrities are adored and listened to India than any other country.
3. The ministry of Urban development website http://moud.gov.in/swachchbharat outlines the details of the plan, keeps updating the progress of the project. This is all in public domain which means that there is total transparency.
4. Improving infrastructure is part of this mission. There are no details of how and what will be improved but I am very positive that the very thought of doing it is the first step towards improving infrastructure.
5. There is a website https://swachhbharat.mygov.in where the general public can interact and suggest ideas to improve the mission. They are encouraged to publish their activity on the website and can provide inspiration to others.
6. The total estimated cost of the programme according to Times of India is approx. 134386 crores of which 100447 crores will be provided by the centre. The funding is proposed to be shared by centre and the state in the ratio of 75:25 according to the guidelines http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/guidelines_Swachh_Bharat_Mission_Gramin.pdf. However the nitty gritty details are unclear on this plan. Recently the cabinet has approved private funding to be accepted for this plan where anybody can contribute and “Clean Ganga Fund” is the first of its kind. This will promote personal contributions and thereby a collective responsibility.
7. Education and awareness programmes are also part of the mission which is a basic requirement for any public initiative. There is very little information with regards to plans on the ministry of urban development website.
The plan certainly seems to be a realistic and effective program. I have some suggestions for this program.
1. Recycling- It is a process by which waste is segregated. In the UK and other European countries this is done in every household. In the UK it’s done in a simple way. Every house here is provided with recycling bins for example green for paper and paper related waste, Blue for bottles and related stuff, black is for general waste which cannot be recycled and Brown for garden waste. In this way every household separates their waste and these are collected separately and then sent for recycling. Apart from this bigger household waste can be disposed off in recycling centres which are available in every town. This can feel like an expensive project for India as there is a lot of investment needed but once invested recycling will become a source of revenue.
2. In Switzerland they have the same system of recycling, but they are 1 step ahead. They want to promote recycling amongst their citizens, so general household waste (which cannot be recycled) is actually weighed and you pay tax in proportion to your waste. So if you have a lot of general waste you pay more tax and this will encourage their citizens to recycle.
3. Infrastructure should be focussed on 2 areas. They are providing basic amenities for general public and waste collection/recycling. Basic amenities include provision of dust bins, toilets, recycling bins etc in public places. Waste collection/ recycling needs a big boost in terms of safety equipment, waste collection equipment etc. At the moment we are falling behind on this and improving infrastructure will definitely improve people’s attitudes towards keeping our environment clean.
4. Waste is going to be a major problem and waste management will be the next biggest challenge for our world. Citizens should be encouraged to recycle their old stuff by actually giving it away instead of throwing it. In a country like India where there is a large economic divide, instead of throwing away old stuff it could be donated to the less able people. In the UK there are websites like Freecycle (https://www.freecycle.org/) where people can swap or give away stuff which they no longer need it. Information Technology should be used for these kind of initiatives to work. Facebook, twitter and other social media website should be used to do this. It does not need to be a government initiative and this could be set up by any citizen in our country.
5. Funding- Encourage private funding from individuals and companies for their respective local projects. They can also promote donations, fund raising activities and this money fed back to the system to achieve the goal.
6. Education- It should be started at the school level. Encourage kids to take part in voluntary activities like cleaning their school or their street and also educate them about waste management. Government initiatives should focus on education through awareness videos in public places and social media focussing on good practices, environmental pollution, hazards, diseases etc.
7. The last but the most important is stricter laws. Stricter laws should be in place to improve public cleanliness. The strict laws should apply for politicians and political parties as well. In the UK waste recycling is a serious thing. We have examples of people being fined for showing disregard to this. The following link is 1 such example http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/local-news/woman-fined-putting-waste-wrong-2507155 .
Cleanliness is a serious and basic part of everybody’s lives and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan certainly is a feasible and effective project with robust plans in place. This is really a promising step and I am confident that this will be a fundamental step in changing people’s attitudes towards public cleanliness. I finally want to share something which I came across recently. Sweden are so efficient in their waste management that they have run out of garbage in their country and they are importing rubbish from EU to produce energy. And the winner of course is Sweden as they are paid by the EU countries for collecting their garbage and at the same time they make money out of the energy they produce http://www.pachamama.org/blog/models-of-sustainability-sweden-runs-out-of-garbage. I am very positive that if we can have a successful Mars mission we can do the same with Swachh Baharat Abhiyan.