PM Narendra Modi launched the Clean India campaign in New Delhi (Agence France-Presse photo)
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the country's biggest ever cleanliness drive today, Mahatma's Gandhi's birth anniversary. The five-year Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India campaign is expected to cost over Rs two lakh crore.
Here are the latest developments:
The PM led a cleanliness pledge at India Gate, which 30 lakh government employees across the country joined. He also flagged off a walkathon at Rajpath and surprised people by joining in not just for a token few steps, but marching with the participants till the residence of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, nearly 800 metres away.
In his address, Mr Modi said the campaign was the best tribute to Mahatma Gandhi who "gave us the message 'Quit India, Clean India'." He rued that Gandhi's dream was still unfulfilled and exhorted the people to clean every corner of the country.
Mr Modi also invited nine people to join the cleanliness drive and requested each of them to draw nine more into the initiative to take it viral. Among them, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Congressman Shashi Tharoor and actors Kamal Haasan, Priyanka Chopra and Salman Khan. (Read more...) Actor Aamir Khan was among those who joined the PM for the event.
He emphasised that the initiative was "beyond politics" and inspired by patriotism. He acknowledged the efforts of previous governments to make India clean and said cleanliness was not the work of a few; all citizens must do their bit to make it a success. "This is not about Modi... Modi is only one of its 1.2 billion people... This is a people's task," he said. (Highlights of PM Modi's speech)
Early this morning he visited Rajghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and then headed to Valmiki Basti, a housing colony in the capital where sanitation workers live. There, Mr Modi swept the streets in a symbolic start to the cleanliness drive.
He also made a surprise stop and inspection at the Mandir Marg Police station close by. He has stressed that today's campaign should not be seen as a mere photo opportunity. (Read)
October 2, Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, is a public holiday usually, but this year the Prime Minister has ordered a full working day for government employees. He has instructed bureaucrats and ministers to lead their departments in cleaning offices, including toilets, today.
In recent days, ministers like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani and Ram Vilas Paswan have been seen sweeping parts of their offices.
Early on Thursday, Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal was seen cleaning the streets near the Prime Minister's residence.
Mr Modi has stressed the importance of sanitation in almost all his public speeches since his May victory, vowing to make India clean by 2019, to coincide with the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Roughly half of India's population do not have toilets in their homes, a health and safety problem that Mr Modi has also vowed to fix.