Banega Swachh India: Health and Sanitation for all!

Banega Swachh India: Health and Sanitation for all!

Swachh India

Broomance is in the air. After PM Modi kickstarted the cleanliness drive in the country with the slogan “Swachh Bharat”, brooms have become a fashion accessory. Photo ops aside, cleaning a small dirty stretch in a corner is a drop in the ocean to the cause of #SwachhIndia. Yet, it could be the starting point of a much-needed movement.

The issues are multifold ranging from people’s apathy to civic machinery’s incompetence, crumbling and inadequate infrastructure, a convoluted approach to garbage disposal – dumping and burning thus poisoning our air, land and water to hazardous disposal of industrial waste. Cultural issues of caste and class also come in the picture.

Now, the effort required is herculean.

Change begins at home. Before preaching to others, we have to attack garbage at its source – our homes.

Garbage

Garbage is choking our cities. Dumped recklessly almost everywhere, it is a major cause of diseases and squalor. Indiscriminate use of plastic prevents the garbage from biodegrading. Cows and other animals die after ingesting the plastic covers. To better garbage disposal, tackle garbage from roots. Reduce what goes out of your house to the Municipality van. Here is what I do at home:

Reduce:

Swachh India

All the vegetable and wet waste is composted in my home. It is simple to do and you can use this compost for your plants. What comes from the earth goes back to it as it is meant to be. 

Reuse:

Use the water for washing veggies and fruits to water plants. Share used toys, books and clothes.

Recycle:

Swachh India

Segregate your dry waste just like I do. Collect your newspapers, plastic covers, plastic and glass bottles and your milk packets in separate spaces. At the end of the month, give them to your neighborhood kabadiwala and get money in the bargain. These are then recycled hence making it easier for Mother Earth. This significantly reduces the garbage output of your home and thus puts less burden on public garbage disposal infrastructure. I give out garbage only twice a week at the most. It is simple and easy to replicate.

Clean surroundings

Teach your children not to litter. Always use a dust bin to dispose trash. Clean up after yourself whether it is a public restroom, a fast food joint, a cinema hall or a street hawker. Don’t leave your mess around for someone else to pick up. If no dust bin is in sight, carry your wrapper or plastic cover home to dispose it.

Do not spit in public places. It causes infectious diseases to spread rapidly. Do not deface public property.

Consumerism

Swachh India

Packaging is one of the biggest banes of today’s civilization. Order a pen online and find it wrapped in reams of bubblewrap, cardboard and plastic. Go to supermarkets and everything is packaged in plastic packets. All beverages are in bottles that are not reusable. The amount of plastic we use and generate is massive and is  responsible for the non-biodegradable part of our waste. Reduce the use of plastic by taking small steps. Carry jute bags while shopping. Use newspaper to line your bins. Insist on paper covers.Plastic usage has to be curtailed. Avoid buying bottled water. Carry water bottles from home. 

There is a sea of waste in the form of electronic waste, toxic batteries, sanitary waste, steel and industrial waste that is dumped haphazardly in landfills and water bodies due to poor regulation, implementation and corruption. This is poisoning our water tables and directly impacting our health. Our #SwachhIndia initiatives need to address safe disposal of this enormous waste!

Sanitation

Open drains and aging sewage lines are an issue even in the most modern of Indian cities. Industrial waste and untreated sewage is directly let off in our lakes and rivers killing our water bodies. Many parts of the cities have almost no access to toilets or other sanitation facilities. People on the move, hawkers and daily-wage earners find no access to clean public toilets and end up peeing on roadsides and defecating in the open.

Swachh India
Public toilets for women in a state of disrepair. Pic courtesy: Womensnewsnetwork.in

Public toilets where present are in bad shape. Building toilets is just one part of the solution. Having electricity, water and maintenance to keep them clean and functional is crucial. Most slum dwellers have no access to toilets. They defecate in the open to health and safety hazards. Women suffer even more and are prone to illnesses, rapes and murders. Here we need massive community outreach. Educate and build, collaborate and support to have more and more toilets.

600 million people in India still defecate in the open.

This is shameful and distressing.

Sanitation not only prevents sickness and gives basic human dignity, it also brings the single greatest return on investment for any development intervention. Every Rupee spent on sanitation gives back many times that cost in health, education and economic development benefits.

Mindsets

Swachh India
Pic courtesy: NewIndianExpress.com

We love being clean. We keep our houses spic and span, never mind if the public spaces are in a mess.Yes, we caste and class conscious brethren find it below ourselves to clean our own toilets. Shamefully manual scavenging still thrives. If my drain or manhole is blocked, I have to find someone to manually clean it. The apathy with which we use public toilets is dehumanizing. You can see it daily in railway and aircraft toilets and in public restrooms.

Hygiene:

In India, 6 lakhs children below the age of 5 die from diarrhea and pneumonia annually.

This can be prevented with the simple act of handwashing. Teach good hygienic habits from childhood:

  • Wash hands before eating food, after using toilet and before cooking. Keep washing hands regularly. Teach your children to do the same.
  • Maintain cleanliness: Bathe daily, change your clothes after bathing
  • Clean your floors with disinfectants cleaners.
  • Cover your mouth while sneezing.
  • Eat fresh, home cooked food. Avoid eating from dirty eateries.

Educate and collaborate:

Swachh India

Lastly do not forget to spread the word. Talk to your helpers like your maid about the importance of washing hands with soap, using toilets and maintaining personal hygiene. While at it, allow them to use the toilet at your home. Write about it on social media and blogs to ensure more people read and get aware. Click on the links in the post to read my posts on each of the pertinent issues. I have written extensively and contributed to these causes.

We need toilets to keep our girls in school. We need toilets to keep our women safe. Support causes like building #Toilets and #SwachhBharat campaign in whatever way you can. You can join Ugly Indian community efforts for cleanliness and also contribute money to cleanliness initiatives.

Cleanliness is not something that can be achieved in a day or even a year. It is a lifestyle and mindset change that will take effort. Start from your home. And, ensure that it spreads to the neighborhoods and gets channelized through our municipal bodies and government machinery.

We need a Swachh Bharat to enable every citizen of this country to live a life of health and dignity.

 

Facebook Comments

26 thoughts on “Banega Swachh India: Health and Sanitation for all!

  1. Rachna: You bring a very important point to the discussion, Swachh Bharat is not about photo ops or cleaning a neighbourhood on special days, it is about making sure we do not dump our garbage in public places. But civic authorities alone can not do it and we all need to contribute to make sure we are responsible citizens and segregate our garbage etc. We are trying to start a campaign in our complex, let us see how things move 🙂

    1. True, Prasad. I am happy that you are starting a campaign in your complex. I think when taken to the community level, this movement can actually work. Smaller units are always better to manage and replicate. Thanks for reading and sharing.

  2. An important post, Rachna. We do the composting, recycling and many other things to reduce disposable garbage at our home too. And it really helps. But my problem is that we don’t even have a garbage collection facility in this little village I live in. So we have to take our bag once or twice a week a few kilometres in the town. Many others don’t want to do that and so they are forced to burn the garbage or dump it anywhere. So as you say there are many sides to this problem. It will take a long time to change things around. We just have to keep doing it – one house, one neighborhood at a time.

    1. Yes, I can imagine. Our garbage collection and disposal network is extremely wanting on many fronts. I can see how the problem is larger in villages and smaller towns. I guess, we need to keep taking the tiny steps to ensure that even if small, change continues to happen all over the country one step at a time. Thank you for reading!

  3. Need of the hour. I am very worried about the non segregation of waste. Often we discard batteries along with household garbage. More often than not, this garbage is dumped along landfill sites. Which makes the soil unfit for any agricultural activity.
    Though I segregate waste but I know that it is all dumped in one vehicle and thrown along Gurgaon Faridabad highway. Waste management is pathetic here.
    Good one Rachna.

    1. Yes, Alka, I agree with you. I used to see the garbage person do the same here in my layout. Mix the segregated garbage. And almost 90% of the people will not do it despite repeated reminders. I am also worried for the huge industrial waste and electronics waste like batteries that we generate. In Bangalore, we have a few places that help in recycling electronic waste and batteries. One has to go to them though. And sometimes these places are very far away. There is so much that needs to be set right. I wonder if any special task force or committee is being built to handle each of these issue. These can in turn collaborate with NGOs, RWAs and citizens on the ground for a sustained change. Thanks for reading, Alka.

  4. Doesn’t lining dustbin with paper create more mess, specifically when maids tend to throw wet leftovers in that? I use plastic bags. I know plastic bags are bad but I’m unable to see the alternative. 🙁

    1. Not at all, Pankti. It makes sense because either you are using that wet waste for composting or giving it for composting to the Municipality van. Newspaper is biodegradable hence can easily dissolve along with wet waste. Plastic will be dirty and will require another effort to remove. Yes, your dustbin will get a little dirty and you can just wash it with water or clean it. In my case, we compost the wet waste at home so there is hardly any trash in that dustbin. Actually all over the house, we use only newspapers to line our bins, and it works for us. We don’t use any plastic covers at all.

  5. Very required post Rachna. Something that’s staring at us in the face, on which we all need to act at the earliest. If each one of us determines to do our best, I am sure the problem is solve-able. It’s easy to pass the buck to the government and not do anything oneself, but that will never yield results. Ultimately what is needed is to have the basis civic sense, the ‘how’ of it will definitely follow.

    1. Thanks, Asha. Exactly, we have a huge crisis that is upon us. And it is time to act. There is no other choice. Like you said if individual will is there, we can easily half the garbage that we send out. We can work with government agencies and municipality if we show the will to make a difference.

  6. Such a relevant post and am proud to know someone like you who walks the talk, Rachna! So much to learn!! Best of luck for the contest!

  7. A good post on what can be done for a good sanitation. There had been lot of examples of what can be done and what should be done but making this a reality is something not a single person or idea can do. The campaign do help people joining in hands and making its impact on educating people of cleanliness. But, it depends that how long we are able to follow it. Hope the impact remains and we make this dream come true.

    1. I think segregation of garbage is something that every single person can and must do. Also following good practices like not littering, spitting or dirtying our public places must be made mandatory. Of course, we do need infrastructure like garbage collection and disposal through civic bodies and many other basic infrastructure like clean public toilets for all. I hope too that people continue to make cleanliness an important part of their lives. Thanks for reading!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: