People are skeptical. They discuss animatedly outside tea shops. India? Clean? Hah! Narendra Modi is dreaming! They say as they crush and throw down the paper cups in which they just had tea…
Once I was traveling by auto right after a heavy spell of rain. The roads were flooded. The auto driver was whining and telling me that he spent the entire night, draining water out of his home as the rains had caused sewage water to overflow. People throw trash on the road, he proceeded to explain, that goes and blocks drains. When will people understand this, he moaned. As he was saying this he spat out into the rain water and also proceeded to crush and throw some newspapers lying around his seat…
So, yeah…where does one start with this clean India thing? Doesn’t it look too far fetched?
But hang on. I have a theory. The clean India mission needs to be implemented psychologically. Telling people to clean up their act does not help, because most of us are so used to our action, we don’t even know we are part of the brigade that’s messing up the place. So screening expensive ads on TV channels, if you ask me, will not help. People will nod, agree and go about their business. They don’t realize that when they crush that newspaper and throw it on the road, it goes and blocks the drain.
Now my point is stop talking and preaching. It’s time to show people what clean means. The human brain is a funny thing. When it sees something better it aspires for it. Like, you’re driving a Maruti Swift, but you aspire for that BMW.
So step one. Stop spending obscene amounts on TV ads. Instead, what I propose is, lets take the children of our government schools on a school trip to Japan (or ok, if thats too much to Singapore). SHOW them what CLEAN is. SHOW them how schools can be kept clean, how streets can be kept clean. SHOW them how no one, spits, urinates and throws things on the road. SHOW SHOW SHOW. Their brain will assimilate it all. Then they will come back home to the squalor and find it hard to accept it. At this point – tell them, they are the ambassadors of clean India. It needs to start from them. Their home. Their neighborhood.
Step two. Tie up with the fancy sanitary ware companies. Lets open really really swank, 5 star level public toilets. Full with lovely mirrors, citronella aroma oil, soaps to wash hands and so on. There toilets should be manned and by smart, uniformed employees. They must be polite, yet intimidating. Encourage the slum dwellers to use this facility. But sternly tell them to be kind to the next user and keep the toilet clean. Tell me who can make such a place dirty? It will intimidate them. Yet if they are welcomed, they will use it. And once they use it, can they ever go back to defecating in the open?
The problem I think is that we build for them these regular toilets, which look dirty the moment they are ready for use. The person manning them hates his/her job and could not care about maintaining it. When you privatize it, the name of the organization is at stake. What an amazing branding exercise for the private sanitary ware companies. If they pull it off, they will never again have to have a marketing and advertising budget! They will get all the publicity and goodwill for free! Everyone in the country will patronize them. It’s win win situation for everyone.
Also these two ideas can be applied, pan India. They are not language specific. I noticed that all the Swacch Bharat ads are in Hindi. The message is not reaching half the country!
More thoughts on this soon. Meanwhile, be good. be clean. Swacch Bharat is possible. We have to make it possible.