Jaipur, Jan 24 : Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor here today said it was important to have swachchta in mind before setting out onto the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan.
While speaking at a session on Swachch Bharat: The India Story, Tharoor was emphatic when he said: “It was important to have swachchta in mind first as many who have started the Swachchta Abhiyan, have condoned hatred, prejudice in public dialogue with statements like “Go to Pakistan.”
Tharoor’s statement was a pointer to BJP’s minister of state for minority Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s statements in May last year when he said in an interview that “those who cannot survive without eating beef should go to Pakistan.”
The session panel also included Punjabi writer Deshraj Kali and Anustup Nayak, an education entrepreneur, who has created a hygiene curriculum. The session also dwelled on the corrupt system, saying bribes, middlemen, thekedars took away most parts of the funds.
Responding to Deshraj’s contention that in Punjab only Rs 3000 was being given to build toilets was laughable as a part of it was being gobbled up by the middlemen, and whatever happened to the famous Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement “Na khaunga na khaane doonga.” Tharoor quipped : ‘Na Khaunga Na Khane Dunga…woh beef ke bare me bol rahe the’ (he was talking about beef),” “When he [Modi] said ‘na khaunga na khane doonga’, he was talking about beef.”
Tharoor said : “We have built toilets, we announce the numbers but they tend not to get used as there is no running water to use them or clean them up and they become smelly dumps.”
He added : “So all these challenges have begun to dominate our consciousness. We have ministers saying this country needs more toilets than temples and Prime Minister Narendra Modi echoed that to the surprise of his Hindutva supporters. But in practice we need a change of mindset and that is hardest. Sanitation is not all about cleaning a toilet, it is about infrastructure.”
Giving an example, he elaborated : “For me, the Abhiyan has a much larger vision. I wrote to the Prime Minister about the Parvati Puthanar canal in my constituency, which was used for boating, swimming and drinking water upto 1930-40s. But later it turned into a sewage canal as people have no alternative sites. You can spend crores cleaning it up but once you clean it up, it will get filthy again with sewage as there is no alternative site to dump garbage.”
Tharoor added : “So I wrote to PM asking him to create a sewage systems for people living on both sides of the canal so that their sewage goes somewhere else instead of canal. And then get down to cleaning up the canal. But I am sorry to say I did not even get an acknowledgement.”
Tharoor said : “We have become a nation that specialises in sound bytes and photo ops rather than the kind of sustained, capital intensive, hardwork that required is to tackle this problem.”
Reiterating that the cleaning up India is not something new, Tharoor said : “Dimensions of the problem is not something new. Mahatma Gandhi in 1920s had said sanitation is more important than independence. After Independence, Congress started a rural sanitation programme. In 1999 Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee started the total sanitation campaign and then UPA government reinvented it as the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan and now of course it is the Swachch Bharat Abhiyan. But other than the changes of name, we are not seeing enough transformations in terms of policy and attitude.”
Tharoor said he found it ridiculous that after dustbins were placed in many places in Mumbai and Delhi, the idea was dropped after the authorities thought terrorists found it easy to place bombs in dustbins.
Saying “we are a soft state,” Tharoor recommended fines and involving local people.
Giving another example of cleaning up a beach in his constituency, he said he involved the people in determining their future rather than “being a grandi, sweeping with a broom and not touching it till the next year before Oct 2, the birthday of Gandhiji. ”