(Nalin S Kohli is spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Director of the party's Public Policy Research Centre. He is also a lawyer and has extensive experience in media and education.)
Ideals and values are universal in nature. Any one individual or organization cannot appropriate them. At best, they can be reiterated over different periods of time.
Cleanliness is one such ideal that belongs to humanity and cannot be appropriated by any one person. That we should live in a clean environment and practice personal hygiene is the message of any cultured community. Indians owe a lot to Gandhiji who adhered and actively practiced this ideal. It is but natural to dedicate the idea of a clean India to Mahatma Gandhi and to actively commit ourselves towards achieving it.
That in a nutshell is the objective and mission of Swachh Bharat, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2nd October. It is not for the first time that such a programme is being launched, a fact duly acknowledged by the Prime Minister. Nor will it be for the last time. Yet, how can anyone find fault with something that should be an integral and natural part of our lives? Or something that the Prime Minister of India desires to be a national and apolitical movement?
India, regrettably, is a poor example when it comes to cleanliness. Despite a rich spiritual tradition that enunciates the adherence to universal ideals of which cleanliness is a pillar, Indians are habitually driven to litter our surroundings, oblivious to impact or reaction. Beyond litter, spitting is another harsh reality, again out of an unchecked habit.
Nor are our systems of public and municipal management responsive or geared towards changing this reality. Unfortunately, often finding a dustbin involves a big effort in terms of time and energy!
The challenge is to change this despicable habit. To achieve this, nothing short of a national movement is required, back-end as well as front end. The campaign has to be a multifarious effort involving building toilets, creating adequate systems and infrastructure, but most important and challenging of all, changing attitudes, habits and beating skepticism.
This is why the Prime Minister is personally driving the movement and making it centre stage. To call attention to the issue and to make this a viral, national, all-inclusive challenge is also why he has invited nine popular personalities to clean a location and then further invite another nine persons to do so.
Finding fault in such a simple, straight forward message can only come from those who either live without hope or desire to celebrate failure rather than success.
Mr Pawan Khera, in his article on ndtv.com "Clean India is Great PR. But Modiji, We Need More"
, regrettably, has preferred to almost completely dismiss the effort being made on this front. By alluding to the movement to clean India as nothing more than a personal PR image-building exercise by Narendra Modi, Mr Khera, even more regrettably tries to bolster a political point where one doesn't exist.
One is aware of the opposition that many in the Congress harbour for Mr Narendra Modi. Yet, India's electorate have chosen to believe in Mr Modi and entrusted him the mandate to deliver.
Mr Khera can hardly expect every Indian to believe that all good in our worldly universe has emanated only after the establishment of the Congress Party. Nor should they expect every Indian to offer obeisance by regularly genuflecting before a restricted leadership pool comprising the Nehru-Gandhi family, where there is no familial link whatsoever with Mahatma Gandhi.
The ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallab bhai Patel were, even in a restricted sense, meant for the betterment of India and every Indian. They cannot be appropriated towards becoming an ideological anchor for unleashing the political aspirations of a few subscribing to the preservation of a filial dynasty.
That the Congress party is yet to come to terms with the fact that they are no longer in office is reality. In a desperate attempt to remain relevant, they do the country a disfavour by opposing issues that inherently are universal in value. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.