By Somali K Chakrabarti
When you are surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.
With a purpose as imperative as cleanliness and sanitation, which affects every single individual in the country in some way or the other and is driven by none other than the PM of the country, it is but natural that a movement to support the cause will gain traction. The 12 hr long LIVE televised CLEANATHON on 14th December, 2014, a part of “Banega Swachh India” campaign launched by RB India and NDTV was such a unique event that brought together people from all walks and streams of life to create awareness for the need of sanitation and to support the cause.
If my face and voice can become a reason for people to follow the Swachh India campaign, I’m happy to be a part of it. ~ Amitabh Bachchan, Campaign Ambassador
My biggest perk from blogging came in the form of winning Banega Swachh India blogging contest that gave me the opportunity to witness the NDTV Cleanathon event held on the 14th Dec and to contribute to the cause.
NDTV CLEANATHON Event
Mr Amitabh Bachchan, the brand ambassador for the Swachh India campaign, opened the event explaining why sanitation is of such immense importance to all of us. Mr Bachchan, along with co-anchor, Mr Vikram Chandra, executive director and CEO of NDTV looked into the challenges with respect to sanitation that exist in India today and urged people to join hands in the cleanliness drive.
They were joined by a number of political leaders, a galaxy of stars and celebrities, and corporate leaders who pledged their support for the campaign, as well as NGOs and people who had worked relentlessly for improving sanitation conditions in their communities or for bringing about the much needed changes in mindset towards the use of toilets. On one hand there were Ms Dia Mirza, Mr Boman Irani, Mr Cyrus Broacha, Mr Govinda, Mr Sudesh Bhosle, Mr Javed Akhtar, Ms Sonakshi Sinha, Mr Arjun Kapoor, Ms Waheeda Rehman, Ms Priyanka Chopra discussing the issue, canvassing and contributing for the cause, on the other we had Ms Priyanka Chaturvedi, Mr Shashi Tharoor, Mr Prasoon Joshi coming up with concrete suggestions of how the government machinery could be used for implementing the broad initiatives. Corporate Bigwigs including Ms Arundhati Bhattacharya, Mr Anil Aggarwal, Mr Rakesh Kapoor, Mr Nitish Kapoor, Ms Chanda Kochar, Mr Anand Mahindra, Mr Roinnie Screwala and others pledged support to the campaign as a part of their CSR activities.
Within 2 hours of the start of the campaign, PM Modi tweeted to congratulate the NDTV-Dettol Banega Swachch India Campaign for addressing aspects related to hygiene and sanitation. Connecting virtually with Chief Ministers of different states, Mr Bachchan and Mr Chandra found out about their respective initiatives and also took the audience through the cleanliness drives organized in different cities on the day. Students and volunteers collected rubbish from Yamuna bank to MCD truck in CleanYamuna drive. School children at Ahmedabad pledged to make handwashing a habit. Students in Kolkata cleaned up paan stains from the pavements in New Market area. Sachin Tendulkar joined in virtually and urged all Indians to devote one hour each year in order to clean India.
Sanitation Issues Highlighted
- Women cut down on their food and water intake throughout the day due to the lack of toilet in villages in some parts of the country, as they can relieve themselves in the open only at dawn (4 AM) or after sunset, when people are not around. The result is malnutrition and it may cause serious kidney problems in women. Many girls have to leave studies as there are no toilets around in the schools.
- It takes Rs 30,000/ year to build and maintain a toilet. However, just building toilets does not ensure their usage. Despite having toilets at home many in rural India choose to defecate in open as their psyche, belief and sanitation preferences prevent them from using toilets.
- Untreated sewage and waste from factories disposed into rivers contaminate the water and cause heavy sludge to accumulate on river beds. The microbial contamination and pollution has rendered the water of river Yamuna unsafe for drinking, as it can cause diseases like hepatitis, and diarrhea.
- As dry and wet waste are not segregated at source, and are dumped together on the grounds along with other industrial or medical waste, much of the dry waste gets soiled. This exposes the rag pickers, who do the segregation to contaminated and hazardous wastes, leaving them vulnerable to serious health issues.
- Some people in rural areas, clean toilets for a living. They collect the wastes from home and clean up the drains without wearing any gloves or a mask, covering their face to hide from the shame of the job that nobody else would like to do. This work is done by people belonging to a particular community. At the risk of contracting deadly diseases, and socially segregated from the village, these people put their lives on the line to keep their village clean.
Suggestions and Ideas discussed
- For general cleanliness on roads, there were suggestions that provision of dustbins be made on the roads at regular intervals.
- As kids are most prone to infections and germs, they need to be encouraged to practice healthy hand washing habits all the time.To instill the habit of cleanliness among school children, they can be rewarded for keeping their school surroundings clean.
- Swapnil Chaturvedi, who has been working towards promoting toilet hygiene in community toilets explained how they have employed positive reinforcement methods, to encourage people to use toilets. They are using a a Facebook like monetization strategy and have incentivized residents of some municipalities in Pune to use community toilets, by passing on to toilet users benefits such as top ups, discounts on provisions from shopkeepers, access to facilities such as tuition and dance classes for their children, and at the same time charging them a monthly fee towards the maintenance and usage of toilet.
- Mr Bachchan deliberated on the idea of having branded toilets sponsored by credible brands in certain parts of the country, where the prevailing mindset prevented people from using toilets and resulted in the continuation of the practice of open defecation. He suggested that if celebrities visit such places and use the toilets , it could encourage the locals to use the toilets as well.
- There were discussions around improving waste management system by separating dry and wet waste at source and the need to provide rag pickers and toilet cleaners in rural areas with adequate equipments, gloves and masks to safeguard them from the ill hazards. The jobs should not be restricted to any particular community, but that would be a huge social challenge to tackle.
- Mr Javed Akhtar highlighted that while the government must create proper systems for waste disposal, as individuals, our sense of ownership should not be limited to the interiors of our house. If the house is ours, so is the colony, the city and the country where we live in.
- Toilets have come out of the closet said Mr Anand Mahindra, while speaking with Dr Pranoy Roy. The fact that we are not embarrassed talking about toilets in a forum is a big step in itself towards growing consciousness about sanitation challenges.
- Priyanka Chaturvedi, Spokesperson, All India Congress Committee
- Anand Mahindra, a, Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra Group
- Saina Nehwal, Arjuna Awardee and Badminton Player
- Suresh Prabhu, Union Railway Minister
- Ronnie Screwvala, Founder Trustee, Swades Foundation
- Arvind Gupta, National Head of BJP’s IT Cell
- Rakesh Kapoor, Global CEO – Reckitt Benckiser
Contributions poured in from different sectors. By the end of the day more than Rs 280 crores were raised in donations. The Finance Minister Mr Arun Jaitley said that the funds for sanitation movement could come in by merging schemes to have asset creation (in form of toilets) as well as to generate employment and from the CSR funds of the corporates and PSUs.
Here was my opportunity to feature LIVE on the CLEANATHON on NDTV. It was an amazing experience to be awarded in such an inclusive forum that had a superstar, a political leader, two chairpersons, two people who do ragpicking for a living and two people who run NGOs seated at the same level on a stage. Kudos to swachhindia campaign!
Watching Sudesh Bhosle, and Govinda paying tribute to Amitabh Bachchan with his songs and dance, was an added treat. Well as a friend pointed out treat is an understatement in this context ….it’s humungous, exquisite and fantabulous! Alka Yagnik paid tribute to Waheeda Rehman with her lovely songs.
It was inspiring to see Mr Bachchan tirelessly championing the cause with sustained enthusiasm and a sincere urge to understand and dissect the problems. Not appearing weary, or bored even once during the event, he asked pointed questions and came up with some brilliant suggestions, and got others engrossed into the discussion, as he sought their views on the issue. All seemed to agree that Sanitation is a collective responsibility – it is not the question of blaming only government for insufficient system, or blaming individuals for poor hygiene, or unclean habits. Time and again, Mr Bachchan stressed that swachhindia campaign should not be a one off thing or remain a photo opportunity, but the cleanliness drive should be carried out in a sustainable manner to build up the consciousness about hygiene into our lifestyles.
So, strengthens the resolve for a SwachchIndia by 2019.
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