Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Anybody can speak nonsense in India; but when a Prime Minister does, it pains.
I will cite Mr. Narendra Modi’s new slogan: Swachh Bharat – Clean India – to highlight the point.
After he came back from New York, his priority program got expressed in this slogan.
In his Madison Square Garden speech, he had declared his agenda of cleaning the river Ganga, as if Ganga is the only river of India.
However, on returning to New Delhi, he stressed on making India a clean country and as we saw, broom in hand, he commenced his new mission on October 2.
If he really wants India to be a clean and healthy land, he can do it, because the people have given him unprecedented majority in Parliament to do anything that may make India a good place to live in. And, removing filth from the streets of the country is certainly one such thing.
He has asked the people of India to co-operate with him in this mission. This is a very welcome step and is no nonsense.
Yet, it is nothing but nonsense, as I perceive, on two grounds.
India has a more than 100 million stray dogs. Population of slum dwellers is no less than 65 millions, when urban homelessness has grown by 21% according to 2013 census. Hardly 3% of slum dwellers use latrine and the rest the street sides/sidewalks. In case of the homeless, roads are used for easing of bowels. When there is no home, where should be the latrines?
As per official census data (2013), the present citadel of Modi – New Delhi – has 46,724 homeless families. But this data suffers from serious under-counting according to housing rights activists.
Even if we accept the official data, at least 46,724 homeless families of New Delhi – with at least five members per family – use the street sides for passing their feces. In Modi’s home state, in the city of Surat in particular, there are 36,144 homeless families, who use the city as an open-air latrine. Look at any of the 4,041 statutory towns in India, the scenario is the same, not to speak of the rural India where less than 1% use latrines. When every homeless family has no other way than using street sides for excrement, the massive population of slum dwellers who are not considered homeless as they keep their heads under at least tarpaulin sheets spread, howsoever scantily, over hovels “where dwellings are unfit for human habitation” in terms of how a slum is defined in the Census report, also use the road sides as their latrines.
Over and above these 65 millions recognized slum dweller families and at least 10 millions heavily under-counted homeless families with 4.7 members per family in the average, there are at least 100 million stray dogs that, as often as they want, ease their bowels on the streets. And in every household, sans the slums, there are pet dogs – one in average – which their owners take to the streets for easing.
Modi must have been inspired by the cleanliness, the New York City stands for. Good.
But here the scenario is different.
Absence of cleanliness in India is factored by absence of sense of belonging to the society which is caused by the commission agents in power after independence. And the scenario is never to be changed as long as sense of belonging to the society is not infused into the character of the people. And, sense of belonging to the society can only be generated by elimination of economic inequality, which can only be done by politicians not belonging to political economy of inequality. But Modi belongs to such a political party, the mainstay of which is political economy of inequality. To expect his administration to infuse into the common man the sense of belonging to the society is to expect a dead horse go at a gallop.
After returning from New York, I had tried to clean the feces of my dog in my hand with a plastic bag as the Americans do.
But I had to abandon the idea, as Bhubaneswar streets are not equipped with trash cans where I could have put the feces.
Moreover the streets are latrines to all the stray and pet dogs as well as to ever increasing slum dwellers. Footpaths often erected to provide profit to contractors – from whom payola comes to engineers and ministers – are mostly abandoned by pedestrians because of heavy deposits of human and animal feces. Modi should take it as a sample of what really is happening in India and accordingly draw up plans for the so-called Swachh Bharat, if he is talking no nonsense.
The concept of Swachh Bharat cannot click if cleanliness is not obtained in both sides of India’s condition – environmental and political.
Modi is not talking about removal of the environmental filth clamped on India by the ultra-high-net-rich.
He has, by his use of broom on a street, indicated that by Swachh Bharat he means cleaning of the roads and streets of the filth that harms human health.
The harmful filth on the roads and streets comes mainly from human and animal feces. To get rid of this, he is to immediately frame and promulgate a law for extermination of all stray dogs, making the same unchallengeable in any court of law, notwithstanding how much Menaka Gandhis hypocritically cry.
No animal is more precious than human beings.
All the street dogs must have to be killed and extinguished within six months, with samples of their breeds preserved in specific zoos/enclosures for academic study. All the streets must be provided with trash cans to be regularly cleaned by the designated offices and dog owners must be forced to collect the feces of their pet dogs while taking them on outing and deposit the same in the nearest trash can; with provisions of rigorous punishment for default. Urban areas, to begin with, must have to be equipped with appropriate cameras to catch the culprits who leave the feces of their animals unclean. Within at best one year, India can be cleansed of harmful filth on her roads/streets.
Necessity: Ceiling on wealth of the rich
Equipping roads with CCTV cameras, with watching manpower and prosecuting courts for speedy disposal of cases against dog owners violating cleanliness codes would require heavy investment, which the present exchequer of India cannot afford. Modi knows it. And, therefore, he knows, his call for cleanliness is just wordy acrobatics.
If it is not so, and if he is sincere, he must put a ceiling on private properties of the rich. No industrialist/trader of India can be permitted to invest in any country outside India. The money beyond the ceiling can be spent on Modi’s cleanliness program as suggested above.
Benevolence of ceiling on wealth
Ceiling on private wealth would give India two specific benefits. Besides equipping India with CCTV cameras to eliminate factors that make the roads unsafe and unclean, the excess money coming from the ceiling on wealth can be used for capital in the hands of the poor for their economic uplift. It would then eliminate the root cause of inequality by shortening the gap between the rich and the poor and by strengthening the exchequer to fund the programs for providing the poor with the best of education and training and the best of environment to live in tied up with their respective profession of agriculture, trade and industry. In other words, ceiling on private wealth shall stop corruption, exploitation and inequality and make the slogan of Swachh Bharat a practical reality.
Modi has the strength
For doing this, Modi has the necessary strength in Parliament, which even the founder Prime Minister of India Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had missed. In the upper House, for this noble cause, there shall be no dearth of support to him.
If he does not take these steps, the slogan for Swachh Bharat would look like nothing but wordy acrobatics.
It really pains, when a Prime Minister jargonizes nonsense.