New Delhi, Oct 2 :
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday wielded the broom symbolically at a place where Mahatma Gandhi once stayed to launch a unique nationwide campaign that seeks to change Indians’ mindset and clean up India in five years.
In a spirited speech near the India Gate monument a short while later, Modi told a huge gathering that Indians had a responsibility of fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi’s dream of ridding the country of dirt and filth by 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi.
On his way to Valmiki Colony which Gandhi made his home for 214 days in 1946-47, Modi – known for his unusual workstyle – halted his car, entered the Mandir Marg police station, saw the state of cleanliness and calmly picked up the broom to sweep away the dust.
In no time he was at Valmiki Colony, where, after a brief visit to the Valmiki temple, the prime minister took up a broom and swept a small area in the company of party colleagues and residents to symbolically launch the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India campaign.
He used a dust pan to put the small pile of dirt into the dustbin.
Thursday marks the 145th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who was a strong advocate of cleanliness. Modi started the day by visiting Rajghat, the Gandhi memorial on the bank of the Yamuna river.
Visitors to India complain about the dirt, the absence of enough dust bins, choked drains, poor state of most public toilets, spitting and urinating in the open as well as the general lack of commitment of the people to keep the country clean.
In his speech, Modi said India – a country not particularly noted for cleanliness – could be transformed provided the citizens disciplined themselves instead of expecting
cleanliness only from municipal sweepers.
“Do citizens have no role in this? We have to change this mindset,” Modi said. “India can do it, the people of India can do it.”
If Indians can reach Mars, they certainly can clean up the country, he said to the applause from the gathering that included scores of school students as well as people from all walks of life.
“It takes time to change established mindset. It is a difficult task. But we have five years,” he said, referring to the deadline of 2019.
Modi compared his slogan of “Clean India” to Mahatma Gandhi’s war cry of “Quit India” during the Independence movement.
“The way we derived pleasure from Quit India, we will derive the same pleasure from Clean India.”
The prime minister named nine people — including cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, actors Priyanka Chopra and Salman Khan and industrialist Anil Ambani — to spread the message of Clean India.
Modi, who returned from the US late Wednesday, underlined that he should not be the focus of the Clean India campaign – and the campaign should not be viewed from a political prism.
“This is not about Modi… Modi is only one of its 1.2 billion people… This is a people’s task.”
Comparing India with developed countries which are married to the concepts of hygiene and cleanliness, Modi said that as “children of Mother India, it is our duty not to spread filth and not let anyone do it”.
The prime minister administered a pledge to the gathering to contribute at least two hours a week to keep their surroundings clean.
The pledge read: “It is our duty to serve Mother India by keeping the country neat and clean. I take this pledge that I will remain committed towards cleanliness and devote time for this…
“I will devote 100 hours per year, that is two hours per week, to voluntarily work for cleanliness. I will neither litter not let others litter.
“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.”