Historically, we as a culture have always invested heavily both in personal and public hygiene. Even today, most women will not enter the kitchen without a morning bath. No one enters a temple without a shower. No yogic practice is performed without cleansing the body first.
Taking care of the internal and external cleanliness of the body has remained with us. However, the awareness that we need to keep our public places clean has taken a beating. This has happened because Bharat - the greatest economy on the planet 25 decades ago - decimated itself under the expert care of colonial guile. Industries were destroyed. Taxation was backbreaking. This slowly took us to a place where no one had the means, energy or resource to maintain public hygiene and sanitation.
Unfortunately, even after independence, governments have not taken enough care to organize cleanliness in the public space. This is not a complaint. Maybe we had other things to do. But today, we know that lack of public hygiene is costing the nation dearly.
Malnourishment and lack of public hygiene generally complement each other. Repeated bouts of bacterial and parasitical infection in the digestive tract take away the ability to absorb nutrients. This has happened to millions of children in the country.
The lack of toilets is also a major issue for women. With the population growth in the last few decades, a woman has no private space left outside. So the government's initiative to build millions of toilets across the country in the last four years is much needed. But while most of India now has access to a toilet, there are still various cultural and logistics issues that the government is trying to address.
It has to be understood that in this country, nothing changes just by changing policies. It takes an emotional movement, which is what I believe Prime Minister Narendra Modi is doing with the Swachh Bharat movement. The process of wanting to clean India is not an overnight job. At the same time, if we can inspire all citizens, it would happen much more quickly.
When the Prime Minister announced Swachh Bharat on Independence Day a few years ago, a certain section of society was making comments, "Why is the Prime Minister talking about pedestrian issues when there are larger issues to be addressed?"
These people do not realize that a large mass of India is pedestrian. Addressing pedestrian issues is of national interest. Without creating a clean nation, developing a nation into a great possibility will be out of question because the infections we carry within us will not allow us to become full-fledged human beings.
Besides the individual's role, today, there are many technologies evolving in the world to transform filth into wealth. There is no such thing as waste. It is just a question of whether we know how to use something or not. The time has come when we have to learn to transform everything and use it for our well-being. What was earth, we made into filth. We must at least be able to transform it back to earth.
There is substantial knowledge - both traditional and new - on how to do this. We must make the transforming of filth into wealth a part of our national ethos. Every city, municipality and village panchayat must take it up.
For example, a city like Mumbai generates 2.1 billion litres of sewage per day. Most of it goes to the sea. But if this is treated and used in micro-irrigation, it can water thousands of hectares of agriculture. If you add up sewage from 200 Indian cities and towns, it comes to 36 billion litres which can micro-irrigate 3 to 9 million hectares. Whether it is river pollution, plastic waste or domestic waste, if you show people that what they think is filth can become wealth, you will not find any filth anywhere.
Swachh Bharat is not just the Prime Minister's movement. It is a crucial step for India to move ahead and truly prosper. Our jawans are standing at our borders, risking their lives every day. Our farmers work hard to feed the nation. Our industrial workers are sweating it out to give us a foothold in the world. One simple way through which we can show our love for our country is by creating Swachh Bharat.
I'm sure if all of us are determined, we can turn this into a clean nation in twelve months' time. Let us take this commitment that before Mahatma's Jayanti in 2019, we will create a clean India on every level - on the streets, at home, in rooting out corruption, and in our own minds and hearts.
Remember, this is a culture that built consciousness of cleanliness through public drainage systems before any other.
Let us make it happen.
(Ranked amongst the 50 most influential people in India, Sadhguru is a yogi, mystic, visionary and best-selling author. Sadhguru has been conferred the "Padma Vibhushan" by the Government of India in 2017, the highest annual civilian award, accorded for exceptional and distinguished service.)
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