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Make a clean sweep in the Indian sweepstakes

I'm worried that merely a moral call to clean up may soon fizzle out. Instead, we need a scheme that will ensure sustained interest in the campaign, writes Mint's consulting editor Manas Chakravarty.

columns Updated: Nov 01, 2014 23:45 IST

(IBN Live, 25 October: PM Narendra Modi praises media, says writing about Clean India drive is service to nation)

I too want to write about the 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan' and do my bit for nation-building.

The present government was given a mandate to usher in sweeping reforms and it has lived up admirably to its promise. They have reformed sweeping comprehensively. Sweeping will never be the same again, what with people who never in their lives stooped to sweep their own houses now out in the streets wielding brooms, exposed to the dust and the heat and the glare of TV cameras.

But let's start from the basics. Why is Europe much cleaner than India? The truth is they've been sweeping for much longer. Remember the history lesson about the Huns sweeping through Europe? Those Huns must have been champion sweepers. They also used to sack cities. You see, plastic bags had not yet been invented, so they put all the dust into sacks - that was called sacking.

After the Huns showed the way to a cleaner Europe, other campaigns followed. For example, the Black Death swept over Europe, wiping away the accumulated dirt of the Middle Ages, which included much of the population, leaving Europe a cleaner, greener place. In the last century, Hitler continued the tradition, as his armies swept across Europe in the Blitzkrieg, German for 'Swachh Europe Abhiyaan'. Hitler also introduced a new technique of conducting mopping-up operations after the army had swept through. That is why Europe is so clean.

Some communist historians have questioned this history. If these armies did sweep Europe clean, they ask, where on earth did they deposit the dirt? Well, it's obvious - they put it into the Dustbin of History. For those who want to know, this bottomless dustbin is located near the Red Fort, Delhi, and the locals have often complained of the terrible stench from it.

Be that as it may, while armies have often fought in India, none of them swept across it. Narendra Modi may have changed that. He started sweeping early, when he swept the Gujarat and the Lok Sabha polls. The 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan' is just a continuation of that initiative.

I'm worried though that merely a moral call to clean up may soon fizzle out. Instead, we need a scheme that will ensure sustained interest in the campaign. Notice how, after the success of the IPL, they now have a Pro Kabaddi League and an Indian Super League for football. Why not have an Indian Sweeping League, with teams funded by corporates and celebrities vying with one another in cleaning competitions? We would call it, of course, the Indian Sweepstakes. Kolkata Kleaners, Mumbai Moppers, Delhi Dusters are names that come readily to mind. They can start by competing to clean Mumbai's beaches. The proceedings will be televised live and people should be allowed to bet on their teams, to maximise spectator interest.

Such a competition will not only usher in sweeping changes, it will also sweep India off its feet. Critics of the campaign will bite the dust. As for me, now that I have done my little service to the nation, could I have a selfie with the PM please?

(Manas Chakravarty is consulting editor, Mint -

(The views expressed by the author are personal)

First Published: Nov 01, 2014 23:35 IST