New Delhi, Oct 1 :
Dozens of municipal workers Wednesday were busy sprucing up Valmiki Colony, a settlement of poor, once-outcast Dalits where Mahatma Gandhi once dwelt, and now home to 300 families, mostly sweepers and others involved in menial cleaning jobs.
They painted signages where none existed, as also electric poles which had few lights, and planted fresh flowers like chrysanthemum and marigold to prepare the otherwise neglected area for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit Thursday before he launches a nationwide Clean India mission.
Modi will symbolically begin his clean-up mission from this place to invoke the ideals of Gandhi who stayed here for 214 days – between April 1946 and September 1947 – and spoke and wrote about the values of cleanliness and hygiene in private and public life.
Situated on Mandir Marg near Connaught Place, Delhi’s commerical heart, the colony has suddenly come to focus ever since it became known that Modi will wield the broom, keeping his pledge of cleaning up a country that is notorious for its pervasive filth, litter and uncleared garbage in cities and towns across the nation.
For the civic agencies however it’s a race against time and officials are working round- the-clock to clean up the government colony which was previously nowhere on their radar.
In the centre of the area is a park that will host the prime minister’s event.
All the flower pots around the park have been repainted, a fresh carpet of grass has been put in place and the boundary walls and pavements have been repaired and painted as well.
In one corner is the Valmiki temple which houses a one-room quarter, Bapu Niwas, where Gandhi stayed. The temple too has received a fresh coat of white paint.
The man idolised as Father of the Nation held many significant meetings of the Congress and also taught children of the Valmiki community in this room.
Furthermore, he himself cleaned the surroundings, a gesture that inspired many. Modi is likely to spend some time here as well.
While the building blocks at the entrance were spanking clean and freshly painted, numerous dump carts of the NDMC were seen parked in the interior blocks as workers appeared at regular intervals and filled them with debris and garbage.
Meanwhile, the route that will be taken by Modi was being spruced up as well.
All the signages and poles have been given a fresh coat of paint while fresh flowers and shrubs were being planted on the roadsides.
While a posse of police and paramilitary personnel stood guard at the entrance of the colony and inside as well not letting anyone enter without a proper identification card. Barricades have been put all around the vicinity.
White curtains have been put on both sides of the entrance of the locality and no cars or two-wheelers were being allowed to park or even stop anywhere around it.
The residents, though, were not complaining.
“It’s a matter of pride that the PM would be visiting us tomorrow. We understand that he needs a tight security and don’t mind the inconvenience,” said Raj Singh Yadav, a 34-year-old resident.
Modi is also expected to inaugurate an eco-friendly toilet block that has been based on technology provided by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
“We are very excited that the prime minister is starting his Clean India mission from our colony. We are lucky,” said Ramesh Kumar.
Modi will start the day by visiting Rajghat, the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, where he will pay tribute to the apostle of peace followed by the visit to Valmiki Sadan.
He will then head to Rajpath, a boulevard that connects the President’s Estate to the India Gate to formally launch the Swachh Bharat Abhiyanor Clean India mission.