Our Bureau / New Delhi: Back in India after a successful tour of the United States, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to launch the “Swachch Bharat” (Clean India) campaign from here on Thursday before engaging the nation in a fortnightly “radio chat” the next day.
Modi would symbolically wield a broom on October 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and reach out to all Indians to make cleanliness a mass movement.
According to a 2011 Census, only 32.70 percent of rural households in the country had access to toilets. According to a UN report released this year, India continues to have the largest number of people in the world defecating in the open.
Modi will launch the drive at Rajpath with a cleanliness oath that 30 lakh government employees will repeat all over the country. All government offices in the vicinity of Boat Club, including the North and South Block, were shut at 2 PM on Wednesday and orders issued to all employees to report for duty on October 2, a gazetted holiday, to take the pledge. The employees were understandably miffed as many had planned to get away from the national capital in view of the ensuing 5-day break.
Instead, now they will be constrained to take a pledge to devote “two hours every week and 100 hours a year” to cleanliness. This is part of Modi’s 5-year plan, which is to be completed by 2019.
Dozens of municipal workers on Wednesday were busy sprucing up Valmiki Colony, a settlement of poor, once-outcast Dalits. Mahatma Gandhi once dwelt here, and it is now home to 300 families, mostly sweepers and others involved in menial cleaning jobs.
The civic staff have 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 Modi’s visit. For the civic it has been a race against time to clean up the government colony which was previously nowhere on their radar. The area has been not only sanitised but was also sealed on Wednesday evening. It is also barricaded for the past three days on security grounds. Valmiki Colony was unusually spic and span on Wednesday evening but Modi may be greeted with filth and grime if he ventures out from the designated area. Modi will not be the first person to wield the broom: President K R Narayanan had set the trend after Queen Elizabeth dubbed Delhi as the dirtiest place she had ever visited.
He will also flag off a road walkathon for cleanliness from the Boat Club.
People elsewhere in the country, however, will be more interested in his “radio chat” on AIR on Friday at 11 AM when they will get the opportunity to interact with him live.