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September 28, 2016

Soul, Sanity and Swachh Bharat! Swachh Bharat is the most profound statement India can make to the world

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Author : M.Venkaiah Naidu

Sangeeta Ahwale of Saikheda village in Washim district of Maharashtra sold her ‘mangalsutra’ to build a toilet. 104 year old Kunwar Bai of Kotabharri village of Dhamtari district in Chattisgarh sold her goats to build a toilet. Priyanka Adivasi of Gopalpura village in Kolaras block returned to her parents as there is no toilet at her in-laws’ house. A muslim woman in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh presented a toilet to her new daughter-in-law. There are several reports of girls refusing to get married into houses without toilets. In all these cases, women are pioneering a new spirit for upholding self-esteem. School girl Lavanya sat on hunger strike until all 80 households in her village Halenahalli in Karnataka built toilets. These are only some glimpses of a new tide of transformation towards a Swachh Bharat.

Image result for Swachh Bharat Mission, launched by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014

Swachh Bharat Mission, launched by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on October 2, 2014 is one of the pioneering initiatives launched over the last two years. Certainly, this idea of making a Clean India is not a new one.

Earlier too, there were similar efforts like the Total Sanitation Mission and Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan. But the difference this time around is the power of intent and implementation.  Focus now is on ‘behavioral change’ which is necessary for using toilets. It is easy to build toilets but more challenging is to make people use them.

It is amazing that Mahatma Gandhi voiced his concerns about poor sanitation in the country exactly 100 years ago while speaking at Benares Hindu University in Varanasi. He was appalled by what he saw all along the streets that led to the famous Kashi Viswanath Temple. Gandhiji said that sanitation is as important as political freedom. India got freed from colonial rule 69 years back but not from the curse of filth and dirt all around in the open. Prime Minister Shri Modi , hence, launched a mission seeking freedom of the country from this scourge by 2019.

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All through the ages, Indian culture and ethos have stressed on the ‘purity of soul’. As a means to individual salvation, this concept of purity of soul virtually encompassed all aspects of thought processes and actions including living in harmony with the nature. Piles of garbage all around, throwing litter in open, polluting canals and rivers, blocked sewers and drains, rising water and air pollution, felling trees and forests is not in consonance with  ‘purity of living’ inspired by ‘purity of soul’.

Cleanliness drive

Swachh Bharat Mission seeks to restore harmony between the soul and the nature by reorienting thought processes and actions of people. It has psychological and socio-economic dimensions. These correspond to behavioral modification and inclusive development by way of implications.

Open defecation and solid and liquid waste management are the two critical components of realizing the goal of a Clean India. While the former is a common concern in both rural and urban areas, the latter is of prime concern in urban areas. Given the serious implications for health and particularly, the economic burden on the poor placed by diseases caused by poor sanitation, ensuring Open Defecation Free India including clean cities is the need of the hour.

Behavioral changes to be ushered in include promoting the habit of using toilets, not throwing any litter in the open, segregating solid waste at source, making a habit of sanitation practices like washing hands before eating, keeping living and work places and public spaces clean, community participation in managing public sanitation assets, maintaining parks etc. in essence, sanitation both in private and public spaces shall emerge as a shared concern of all citizen. This sensitization is key to the success of ongoing efforts for a Swachh Bharat.

Open defecation is a clear negation of self-esteem besides being a telling commentary on inequitable development. This has become a habit more out of compulsion and given an opportunity, no one would like to go out to defecate. It has no justification whatsoever. This is even more outrageous in urban areas.

It is heartening to know that over the last two years about 85,000 villages and 141 cities have become Open Defecation Free. Over two crore toilets have been built in rural areas and over 25 lakhs in urban areas since the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission.

After a slow start, Swachh Bharat Mission has since gained momentum and this shall be maintained over the next three years, for the country to be freed from the perils of poor hygiene. Swachh India is the most profound statement that India can make to the world by 2019.

In the run up to the second anniversary of Swachh Bharat Mission, cross country awareness campaigns and activities are being taken up to rekindle the spirit of sanitation and to renew our pledge for a Clean India.

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On day one Prime Minister told me to ensure that the Swachh mission becomes a ‘Jan Andolan’ and not a governmental programme. We have made earnest efforts in this regard reaching out to all sections of people seeking their involvement in this mass campaign and to motivate fellow citizens as well. Governors, Chief Ministers, elected representatives of people at various levels, industry bodies, iconic persons from different walks of life are now involved in the ongoing effort for Swachh Bharat.

Given the Indian values of purity of soul and people selling their family silver for building toilets and the sanitation movement acquiring mass character, Swachh Bharat will not remain a distant dream.

*The writer is Union Minister of Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation and Information & Broadcasting.

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Sangeeta Ahwale of Saikheda village in Washim district of Maharashtra sold her ‘mangalsutra’ to build a toilet.
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104 year old Kunwar Bai of Kotabharri village of Dhamtari district in Chattisgarh sold her goats to build a toilet, PM Modi bows to her for exemplary contribution to Swachh Bharat.
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A muslim woman in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh presented a toilet to her new daughter-in-law.
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School girl Lavanya sat on hunger strike until all 80 households in her village Halenahalli in Karnataka built toilets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Global Living and Sustainability: A Gandhian Perspective

i201692801Author : Dr D John Chelladurai

Special Feature -1 on Gandhi Jayanti

Modernity has made individual global in one’s potential. With satellite communication, Airways, Earth Movers we are global in our strength and ability. Human life has gained ‘vishwaroop’. From self-centeredness to ecological damage we witness in life ethical transgression at every front.  In our craving for the best in the world, we appear to pursue a perilous path of civilisation.

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Having witnessed the early signs of the onslaught of modern science and industrial revolution across the Europe and its impact on human civilization, Gandhi advocated an alternative way of living.  It was a neat blend of physical, intellectual and spiritual life; as Gandhi would say ‘harmony between word, thought and deed’.  J C Kumarappa articulated it as ‘appropriate’ lifestyle.

It represents an optimised approach to life, keeping in view the appropriateness of the context such as socio, economic, political, biophysical and ecology. It means, doing everything in an optimum manner, in a neither-less-nor-more way.  It produces the best result under a given condition, and is more harmonious with nature.

One can see this optimum principle co-determining all of Gandhi’s approaches to life, be it personal or national, physical or spiritual.  For instance, Gandhi proposed technology be appropriate, neither be too primitive to be of no use, nor too sophisticated to the point of overpowering the very user.  He stated sewing machine as one such appropriate machine.

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It liberates the individual from the toils of hand stitching and does not produce in surplus to the point of creating unemployment, consumes no electricity and pollutes nothing.

Employment is a quantifiable resource within an economy.  Mass production allows few to take more than average of the global share, leaving a large section with less than average, creating a huge ‘opportunity gap’ called unemployment. He proposed decentralised village industries in place of global manufacturing conglomerates, in order to optimise the production possibility with the employment requirement. He proposed what J C Kumarappa put it as ‘economy of permanence’.

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Bread labour on land with appropriate tool is the life worth living, Gandhi said, echoing the idea of Ruskin.  It renders justice to the economy and ecology at the same time.

Poverty and wealth are two extremes. The uniqueness of Gandhi’s optimised approach was that while working on the removal of poverty he would equally insist on ‘voluntary poverty’ among those having surplus. The structural arrangement Gandhi proposed for voluntary poverty was ‘Trusteeship’. He said to Jamnalal Bajaj to ‘be the trustee of your wealth and put it to the use of the poor millions.’

Talking cue from Gandhi’s non-violent appropriate economic ideas, the British economist EF Schumacher wrote “Small is Beautiful: A study of Economics as if People Mattered”.

Image result for EF Schumacher wrote “Small is Beautiful: A study of Economics as if People Mattered

And the club of Rome, an association of Nobel laureates brought out the report ‘Limits to Growth’ based on ‘computer simulation of exponential economic and population growth with finite resources’.

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The Limits to Growth first edition cover

They all endorsed what Gandhi said about self restraint and appropriate living.

Ecological Debt Day’ is a day that marks the point in each calendar year where human consumption of natural resources exceeds the earth’s ability to replace those resources that year.  At a sustainable rate of consumption, Ecological Debt Day would fall at the end of each calendar year. As of now, humans devour in 225 days the earth’s provisions meant for 365 days.

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As humanity finishes off the earth’s annual supply by every August 13, what Gandhi said is more prophetic: ‘there is enough for every human’s need but not everyone’s greed’; ‘consuming more than what we actually require amounts to stealing’, a violence against nature. Maybe, ‘fulfillment of needs’ and not the ‘pursuit of greed’ would be the way to delay the ‘Ecological debt day’ by a few notches.

The concept of gram rajya or village republic Gandhi proposed was an optimised society.  The individual requires social association though s/he has serious limitation on the extent to which it can be stretched.  A healthy society would be one in which individual can reach out personally to fellow beings. He visualised a social order akin to Oceanic Circle, with individual at the centre, encircled by family, village, district, state, nation and the world one after the other.

Global living brought diverse humans to co-exist.  People of different religions, ethnic and cultural orientation have come to live in every locality. Information technology has removed geo distance anyway. Between adhering to the rootedness of an individual’s religio-cultural association and embracing social diversity, we need to adopt a mean point of behaviour to keep the society in balance. One of Gandhi’s eleven vratas ‘Sarva Dharma sambhava’ explains this essential virtue especially for global humans.  It is, appreciating plurality while being rooted to one’s faith.

Image result for Sarva Dharma sambhava

When E Stanley Jones an American Methodist priest asked Gandhi, Christ says ‘love thy neighbour’, what better message of nonviolence could you give? Gandhi responded by saying ‘I have no enemy’. More than loving one’s enemy, overcoming the habit of seeing an ‘enemy’ in others, is important.

In the spectrum of human behaviour, violence and non-violence constitute two ends; absolute violence being one extreme and puritan nonviolence being the other.  Though a proponent of nonviolence, Gandhi did not go for the extreme expression, but stuck to what was  practical. Thus, he was reconciled to certain inevitable violence, such as ‘driving away animals that spoils cultivation’.

Gandhi employed his optimum approach to health and sanitation too. Today, as World Health Organisation has declared, ‘obesity’ is a global epidemic and a source of all lifestyle hazards.  Gandhi argues, “A man with extraordinary physique is not necessarily healthy. He has merely developed his musculature, possibly at the expense of something else,” Gandhi says.  In his book Key to health he proposed a balanced life of just sufficiently nutritious food, active physical life, good sleep and healthy thinking.  The eco-friendly toilet he designed was one of the best of his time and it was called ‘Wardha Latrine Model’.

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Earth is an inheritance of all life on earth and for all time to come.  If in our pursuit of a grand life, we reduce it to a used up mass of earth, probably we are doing a grave injustice against nature. Gandhi’s nonviolent way of life with its appropriate tools, decentralized social order with an economy of permanence that enable an individual to be ecologically symbiotic, sounds more pertinent a learning for us today than ever before.

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*An alumni of Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Dr D John Chelladurai is currently the Dean, of Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, (Maharashtra), He is a social analyst and specializes in ‘Conflict Transformation’ and ‘Peace Building’. 

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