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