Some young men who live in flats in my colony came to meet me just now. They said that to combat dengue and chickengunya, which has affected many people in the colony they have organized 100 children of the colony for cleaning the colony, and a function will be held tomorrow morningat 9 a.m in the colony in which I was requested to be the Chief Guest.
I told them I will certainly come, and appreciate their good spirit. But I also said that though I did not want to discourage or demoralize them, I am very sceptical about the effectiveness of such cleanliness drives. Prime Minister Modi launched a ' Swatchata Abhiyan ' but what was the upshot ? It proved to be a drama and a stunt.
I explained that cleanliness outside one's house is a feature of industrial society, as exists in Western countries. India is still not a fully industrialized country, it is still in the pre-industrial age. It is only when we become a fully industrialized country that the mindset of our people will change, and they will become habitual to maintaining cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene.
In Western countries usually there is no litter on the road or in parks etc. Since a very young age a child's mind is impressed by his/her parents about maintain cleanliness so much so that it becomes second nature to him/her. In every house there is a garbage box where garbage or trash is to be put and in the night someone in the house takes this to a bigger garbage bin which is outside every house. Later, a Municipality vehicle comes and takes this garbage away.
In Western countries no one throws litter on the road or a park or any public place. This is inculcated since childhood. If one takes a dog for a walk on the road or park, and the dog excretes, one has to collect this excreta with a gloved hand, and throw it into a garbage bin. Does anyone do this in India ? In India there are piles of garbage and rubbish lying almost everywhere in almost all cities, and uncovered drains where mosquitoes and other insects breed.
In Western countries all rivers are clean. Even the tap water is as clean as mineral water and can be consumed, whereas in India everything is polluted.
Why is it that only highly industrialized countries can be really clean ? That is because highly industrialized societies cannot exist without high standards of cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene. If a disease spreads in such a society the workers will fall sick, and the managers and owners may also catch the disease, and so the work in the factory or establishment will shut down.
Western societies are highly organized, and most of its parts are interconnected. So if work stops or is hampered or impaired in one part that will dislocate work in many other parts too. On the other hand, India is still a largely disorganized country
I remember once I was in USA that a news was flashed on TV that some American had returned from Asia with an infectious disease. He was immediately quarantined in a hospital, and treated medically, so that the disease does not spread. Can one imagine such a thing happening in India ?
To have large scale cleanliness and sanitation we have to change the mindset of our people, and this mindset cannot be changed by' Swatchata Abhiyans ' but by building a highly industrialized society. This will take 10-20 years.
So I told the young men who met me that while I appreciate their social spirit, and do not wish to discourage them, I must tell them the truth that I am sceptical about such drives. The enthusiasm will last for a couple of weeks or so, and then business as usual.