A cleaner India would be a real tribute to Mahatma Gandhi | columns | Hindustan Times
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A cleaner India would be a real tribute to Mahatma Gandhi

In the run-up to Gandhi Jayanti, what made people adopt PM Modi’s motto of Swachhta Hi Seva and take the pledge: “Ma kasam, Hindustan swachh rakhenge hum”?

columns Updated: Oct 01, 2017 21:18 IST
People throng Hindustan’s ‘Ma kasam, Hindustan swachh rakhenge hum’ programme to take the cleanliness pledge at Agra’s ADA Park
People throng Hindustan’s ‘Ma kasam, Hindustan swachh rakhenge hum’ programme to take the cleanliness pledge at Agra’s ADA Park (Hindustan)

Today is Gandhi Jayanti. On this occasion, all of us remember Bapu in our own ways. Some of us idolise him even as others perceive him as full of follies. That is the power of Mahatma Gandhi. Every discussion about him further consolidates his eternal legacy.

Let me tell the uninitiated that Gandhi had an important role to play in the launch of Hindustan Times. On September 26, 1924, while presenting this newspaper as a daily to the people of the country, he had expressed a wish that it play a role in the struggle for independence and the quest for social reforms. At that time, his son Devdas Gandhi was on the editorial board of Hindustan Times. He went on to successfully become the editor of the newspaper. Even today the objective of the Hindustan Times group is national service and social reform. Therefore, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while dedicating the fortnight preceding Gandhi Jayanti to cleanliness, gave the slogan: Swachhta Hi Seva (cleanliness is the real service), our sister publication Hindustan took it up like a mission.

Swami Vivekananda used to say that a healthy mind can only reside in a healthy body. Still, lakhs of people lose their lives every year owing to lack of hygiene. A report by World Health Organization says that for a population of 1 lakh, more than 133 deaths take place because of air pollution. As many as 2.7 million people die of diarrhoea and waterborne diseases in India every year. The lack of hygiene causes 15 serious ailments including malaria, diarrhoea, cholera, dengue and hepatitis B . This can be tackled only with a people’s movement.

Before embarking on this movement, we decided to have a conversation with the people themselves. In the first phase, simultaneous dialogues were held in every district of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Jharkhand. We were happy to discover that the people, who turned out in numbers larger than we expected, had their hearts in the right place when it came to playing a part in our mission. As I write this, lakhs of citizens in more than 3,500 awareness programmes have taken the pledge to maintain cleanliness. I am not quoting exact statistics because our mission will continue till the evening of October 2 and the numbers are growing every day. The pledge hasn’t been taken just for namesake. People have already begun implementing it.

Here’s one example. On September 23, even as it was raining in Dehradun, my colleagues in Hindustan discovered that a number of people ventured out to clean the streets clad in raincoats or holding umbrellas. This is the kind of self-sufficiency that Gandhiji wanted us to display. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that instead of relying on government machinery, the people had taken an initiative on their own to clean up their neighbourhoods. Every colleague from Hindustan had similar stories to narrate. It isn’t possible to share all of them in this column, but it is clear that if this tradition of volunteerism goes on, a number of health-related problems in the country will be resolved on their own.

Next year the nation celebrates the 150th birth anniversary year of Mahatma Gandhi. If in this year, thanks to the cooperation between the government and the common man, India emerges a little cleaner, then it will be a real tribute from the country to the father of the nation.

Here we would like to make a special mention of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma, Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat and Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das. Not only did they cooperate in making our campaign successful, but they also individually participated in the programmes hosted by us.

Apart from these, many other state and central ministers and people’s representatives took part in the campaign. Cleanliness is a subject of social reform. It is a matter of great satisfaction that our politicians have risen above their ideological differences and considered Hindustan’s mission as their own mission.

We would also like to thank from the bottom of the heart people of the Hindi belt who have adopted the motto of Swachhta Hi Seva and taken the pledge: “Maa kasam, Hindustan swachh rakhenge hum.” One hopes this campaign will be an ongoing endeavour that will lay a foundation for the clean and healthy India that all of us deserve.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief Hindustan

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