Zeyad Masroor Khan, Oct 3, 2014, DHNS.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi began the much awaited Swachh Bharat Abhiyan from the Valmiki Sadan colony on the morning of Gandhi Jayanti, the nation’s eyes were set on him.

“The Clean India campaign is an example of Modi’s vision and commitment for change. If there is one man in the whole country who can turn the thought into a reality, it is Modiji,” says 23-year-old Shantanu as he buys an ice cream from a colourful stall at  the Durga Puja Mela Ground pandal in  in south Delhi’s Chittaranjan Park.

The ice cream wrapper is not dropped into the dustbin, which is just a few feet away. “Very soon India may follow the path of Singapore. Who knows we can even better it,” the engineering student adds.

In his Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister had vowed to start a campaign to clean the nation, build more toilets, raise awareness about sanitation beginning on the birth anniversary of the ‘Father of the Nation’. His idea and vision was much appreciated in opinion columns, TV debate shows and by the common Citizens.

However, many feel that the drive to clean up the country, or even the national capital, from filth and dirt on roads, parks, bus and railway stations is still a far cry.

“It is impossible to clean the nation without overhauling the complete system. If India has to be dirt free, the first and most important change should be brought into the mindset of the people. And that will come with strict rules and regulations and of course, their implementation on ground,” says Esha Paul, a journalist.

She says there also needs to be a focus on the infrastructure development. And that starts with dustbins.

“After my studies, I went to France for a few months as part of a scholarship. After I came back, I used to look for dustbins whenever I had to throw a bottle or a plastic cup. Even at CP, it was a long walk before I could find any dustbins,” says Paul.

“I now throw garbage on the road like any other Indian, as there is no other option. In fact, my friend says that this is the desi way,” she adds.

Govind Singh, environmentalist and director of Delhi Greens, an organisation working to make the capital clean and green, says that the problem of waste management needs to be two-pronged: One at the personal level and another at the disposal level.

“It’s great that the Prime Minister is motivating people to not litter their surroundings and put an emphasis on cleaning it. However, this is just one facet of the issue. Modiji also needs to address the larger issue i.e. of waste disposal by the municipal corporation. All major garbage landfills of the city are currently overflowing with waste,” says Singh.“Another major problem at the infrastructure level is that at very few places, there is segregation of waste into bio-waste and regular garbage,” he adds.

Segregation is sometimes done afterwards by ragpickers, often children. It’s common to see them picking bottles and plastic in the city and at the dangerous landfills.Another resident of south Delhi, Dev, feels that cleanliness or the lack of it, has a lot to with the economics behind it and no campaign would succeed without taking this aspect into consideration.

“Take the case of plastics. There have been many court orders banning it in Delhi. A lot of upscale grocery shops now don’t give polythene bags. However, a small time grocer has no other option other than to use plastic. So, if you need to fight for a garbage-free India, it can’t succeed without involving all the sections of society and giving incentives and fining offenders,” he says.

Govind Singh says at least a right beginning has been made. “There have been many such drives before too, but the public involvement was minimal. This time PM has tried to motivate everybody to join the drive. Only time will tell how this drive changes people’s psyche. However, it’s a step in the right direction.”

The people of the city are keeping their fingers crossed.

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