Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said linking ‘Swachh Bharat’ drive with government or a political party will lead to its failure and took a dig at the critics of his pet scheme, saying those who cannot be a part of it should step aside but not criticise.
The cleanliness drive must become a public movement if it has to succeed, he said, insisting that change was happening and noted that Parliament had never debated the issue since Independence but discussed it in every session after he announced the scheme in his Independence Day speech last year.
Speaking at an India Today event, where he gave away awards to individuals and government and private entities in various categories for their work towards cleanliness drive, Modi invoked Mahatma Gandhi on his birth anniversary today and said we all must come together to fulfil his wish for a clean nation.
“If it is said that this is a government scheme, it will never succeed. The day you say it is Modi’s scheme, it has no chance. If you associate it with political parties, the drive will be harmed. This should become a people’s movement, a programme of us all. This work should be (away from) from controversies… If you can join it, join it, if you cannot then step aside but not criticise,” he said.
Opposition parties, including Congress and Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, have taken potshots at the Centre over the “Swachh Bharat’ scheme, saying there was no visible improvement on the ground and it was all “showbaazi”.
Modi lamented people’s mentality after Independence that whatever was to be done would be done by governments and no one else. Had it not been so, he said, things would have changed for good by 1960, but only reverse happened. Once cleanliness becomes a habit, people will no longer tolerate dirt, he said, adding that while personal hygiene is accorded priority in our culture, social hygiene is neglected.
Noting that a lot of positive things had happened since the drive was launched last year this day, he said as many as 95 lakh toilets across the country were constructed against the target of 60 lakhs. Recalling an incident when a child fallen into a borewell, he said the entire nation was glued to TV sets to know the latest on his rescue and was concerned over his fate but few realise that 1000 children die every day due to diseases related to lack of hygiene. He wondered how long such a situation would be allowed to continue.
Modi said he had announced ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign without thinking much about it and knew he had taken a “risk” and his hair could be “torn” over it.
The Prime Minister said,”We have to go back to our traditional methods of recycling goods as this attitude of buying new things has also led to wastage and filth.” He hailed the awardees in all 13 categories, saying their work will inspire others to join the drive which would continue with even more vigour.
Modi lauded the media, especially electronic media, for supporting the campaign. Media, he said, effectively highlighted the lack of hygiene in the society.