Cleanliness is next to godliness. We have all read this quote. Our Bapu, Mahatma Gandhi was particularly interested to banish, along with the British, all the dirt and impurities that plagued our nation and her citizens. He had known from those ancient days that cleanliness leads to a healthy body and mind.
Inspired by Bapu’s vision, on 2nd October 2014, the Indian government under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modi made it a mission to make India clean by 2019 by eradicating open defecation, improving solid waste management and making the citizens aware of the importance of cleanliness. The name of this mission was Swachh Bharat Mission or Clean India Movement.
The primary objective of Swachh Bharat mission was to stop the practice of open defecation and improve personal hygiene of the citizens. According to UNICEF, a single gram of faeces can host millions of viruses and parasites. These viruses and parasites are the reason that every year one lakh children die of diarrhoea.
While making India open defecation free by 2014 was the main aim of the mission, it also aimed to make people more aware of the problems created by solid and liquid wastes when garbage management is not done properly. The Swachh Bharat Mission aimed to make our rivers, drainage system, buses, offices and streets cleaner.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is not something that happened overnight. India is a big country and improving her requires meticulous planning. Before Swachh Bharat Mission, the previous two cleanliness missions in India paved the path for the most successful cleanliness drive of 2014-2019.
The campaign was conceived in a conference organised by UNICEF and the Indian Institute of Technology in March 2014. Later that year, on the birthday of the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi, the Swachh Bharat Mission was flagged off. It was a daunting project that required the construction of 90 Million toilets across the country. The seriousness of the mission can be judged when we see that the government earmarked 1.96 Crore Rupees for the project.
The Swachh Bharat Mission was a huge success. India was a country whose image was tainted because of the widespread practice of open defecation. After the Swachh Bharat Mission, UNICEF has confirmed that the mission has indeed impacted in a positive way. People do not feel shy anymore to talk about sanitation and toilets.
According to the government data, since the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission 1028.67 lakh more toilets have been built. 706 districts out of 736 have become open defecation free. The villages, where open defecation was a big problem, have also reported positive effects of the mission. 6, 03,175 villages in India are now open defecation free.
Side by side of the main Swachh Bharat Mission, the Indian government also launched the Clean India: Clean Schools campaign. The aim of the campaign was to ensure separate toilets for boys and girls in schools, appropriate sanitary facilities for menstruating students, hand washing station that can cater to at least 10 students at the same time, availability of soaps etc.
Our school has all the sanitation equipment necessary to facilitate Clean India: Clean Schools campaign. We have hygienically secure toilets with handwashing facilities. Our female classmates feel comfortable coming to school because of the measures taken to make the girls’ toilet modern and friendly. Our teachers make it a point to emphasise the benefits of personal hygiene.
Although Swachh Bharat Mission has achieved phenomenal success, there are certain things that still need to be done. The Indian government did a great job by building lakhs of toilets. However, the need of the hour is to change the mentality of the Indians. Despite having toilets in homes, many find it beneficial to defecate in the open. They do not want to ‘spoil’ their supposed sanctity of the homes by defecating inside the house in the toilet. These people need to remember that the outer world is nothing but the extension of their homes. The earth is their home. It is the duty of the people to make the planet beautiful.
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is an ambitious project. When other countries are aiming at the moon and Mars without improving the lives of the people, our government has taken a people-first approach. Along with the Clean India campaign, it is also necessary to make our hearts cleaner. We must respect each other, we must respect the women and we must not attack each other in the name of religion or caste. Only after that, we can say that we are clean physically as well as spiritually.
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