Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched Swach Bharat Abhiyan on 2 October, Gandhi Jayanti with much fanfare and appealed Indians to not litter and keep their places clean. He also challenged many celebrities to clean their surroundings and post pictures on social media and later we saw them cleaning the streets too in every form of media. He transformed the profession considered not so good into fashion. It also made many people aware and compelled many to not litter, spit in public but many still litter on roads because of lack of dustbins at every place.
Recently some BJP leaders and social activists were also caught following the latest fashion by cleaning manicured leaf garbage & posing in front of camera.
The question which I would like to raise is that only brooming away the filth and not littering here and there will make India “swach” (clean)? We never talk about the grim state of Safai Karamcharis (sweepers) & the same has happened in Swach Bharat Abhiyan too when without their contribution it is impossible to think about the clean India. Celebrities and politicians will not come out daily to sweep the roads and neither they will be able to inspire us to do the same for rest of our lives. (I’m not cynical) The only person who will clean the “actual” filth daily is sweeper. Today majority of the sweepers work on contract and get minimum wages after signing on the amount much higher than what they actually get. Sweepers are forced to work in man holes without proper safety and equipments in spite of the supreme court observation which called manual scavenging an unfortunate reality in modern and shining India. These hostile conditions makes them vulnerable to life threatening lung, eye, heart, skin diseases.
Do we wonder that the garbage which we are sweeping away to support Swach Bharat Abhiyan is again dumped somewhere on the outskirts of cities and makes people living in the surroundings vulnerable to several kind of life threatening diseases. Around 80% of the urban sewage goes untreated into our water system i.e. rivers, lakes, ponds etc and makes it too polluted to use. This sewage is also leaching in our ground aquifer and increasing nitrate levels of water than normal. Its like drowning in our own excreta.
I’m no one to decide deadlines for the government but perhaps on next 2 October, Gandhi Jayanti I would like to see our Prime Minister giving us the road map to solve all the problem of Sweepers, plans to install complete sewage system in all cities, water treatment and garbage management systems to make our surroundings and water systems actually clean.