NEW DELHI: Wielding the broom, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the country’s biggest-ever cleanliness drive on Thursday that is expected to cost over Rs 62,000 crore, asserting that the “Swachh Bharat” mission is “beyond politics” and inspired by patriotism.
“I am not talking politics … this is beyond politics. This is inspired by my patriotism not politics. We do not have to do this with an eye on politics … I say that with a clean heart … If we paint this again with a brush of politics, we will again do a disservice to mother India.
“All the governments in this country have made one or the other effort to do this work. Several political, social and cultural organizations have made efforts in this direction. I greet all those who have worked,” Modi said in his 25-minute address at Rajpath, where he formally kicked off the five-year-long campaign that will cover 4,041 statutory towns.
Administering a pledge to people to make India clean, he said that this task is not the responsibility only of safai karamcharis or the government’s but of all the 125 crore Indians.
He said that Thursday’s campaign should not be seen as a mere photo opportunity.
In an event marked by fervour and symbolism, the Prime Minister wielded a broom and swept a pavement in Valmiki Basti, a colony of sanitation workers in the capital.
The Prime Minister said he is aware that criticism of this programme will begin in just a few days but said he that is prepared for this, exuding confidence that countrymen will not let him down.
The urban component of the mission is proposed to be implemented over 5 years starting from October 2, 2014 in all 4,041 statutory towns. The total expected cost of the programme is Rs 62,009 crore, out of which the proposed central assistance will be of Rs 14,623 crore.
The Cabinet had, last month, decided to merge the ‘Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan’, a campaign for rural sanitation with Swachh Bharat Mission.
The Prime Minister countered Congress’s criticism that his government behaves as if everything happened only after he came to power. “I do not make any claim that the government, which has been elected to power just now, has done everything.”
Congress has been attacking Modi accusing him of taking credit of initiatives undertaken by the UPA regimes and trying to give an impression that every good work was done only by him.
Recalling that he had congratulated all governments even from the ramparts of Red Fort, Modi said, “Even today from this stage, I greet and salute all the governments — central, state and municipal, social organizations which have worked in this direction, whether they are leaders from Sarvodaya or workers of Seva Dal. I launch this programme with their blessing.”
Maintaining that everybody deserves kudos, the Prime Minister asked not to get into trading political barbs on the issue.
“Everybody before us has worked for it. Under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership, the Congress had led it. Let us not get into it who has done it, who has not. We should work responsibly,” he said.
Administering the pledge to countrymen on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, Modi highlighted the Father of the Nation’s thrust on cleanliness and said the country must realize his unfulfilled dream of a clean India on his 150th birth anniversary in 2019.
“Mahatma Gandhi dreamed of an India which was not only free but also clean and developed. Mahatma Gandhi secured freedom for Mother India. Now, it is our duty to serve Mother India by keeping the country neat and clean,” read the first lines of the pledge.
The pledge further takes the promise from every individual to remain committed to cleanliness and devote time for this.
“I will devote 100 hours per year — that is two hours per week — to voluntary work for cleanliness. I will neither litter nor let others litter.
“I will initiate the quest for cleanliness with myself, my family, my locality, my village and my work place. I believe that the countries of the world that appear clean are so because their citizens don’t indulge in littering nor do they allow it to happen. With this firm belief, I will propagate the message of Swachh Bharat Mission in villages and towns,” reads the pledge.
It also exhorts all to encourage 100 other people to take this pledge and endeavour to make them devote their 100 hours for cleanliness.
Earlier, the Prime Minister wielded the broom himself by sweeping clean a pavement in Valmiki Basti, a colony of sanitation workers. Seeing dirt at the Mandir Marg police station on his way to the “Swachh Bharat” mission launch at India Gate, he stopped and cleaned it himself and directed the cops present there to complete the task.
Ministers pitch in
Union drinking and sanitation minister Nitin Gadkari said that gram panchayats are also participating in the campaign and said all were extending their support to the mission. “I assure the Prime Minister that we will accomplish the task of cleaning India by 2019,” he said.
Union urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu termed the day as historic and said the mission will be turned into a people’s movement. “I am confident that this campaign will sustain,” he said and exhorted the corporate sector to take up the mission as part of their corporate social responsibility.