VISHWAJIT RANE 01st Oct 2023


Keeping our surroundings clean and ensuring that it stays that way, is one of the basic requirements for a better quality of life. Cleanliness is most important for physical well-being and a healthy environment. Mahatma Gandhi had once said “Sanitation is more important than independence.” He made cleanliness and sanitation an integral part of the Gandhian way of living. His dream was total sanitation for all. 

This is among the most basic aspects of human civilization, and signs of this can be seen in ancient human settlements. Through the course of history, our villages and cities have grown and amid the frenetic pace of development, population growth, industrialization and pollution, cleanliness was affected adversely. But, a renewed focus on clean surroundings and its importance for our health and well-being, has changed the scenario. This transformation was brought about by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he gave a clarion call for Swachh Bharat (Clean India) soon after taking office in 2014. Leading by example, he turned this call into a public movement that has initiated a change in public perception and participation in cleanliness drives all over the country has considerably increased.

It is significant to remember that hygiene was among the three aspects that Gandhiji envisioned for a clean country. He insisted on cleanliness and good habits and pointed out its close relationship to good health. His passion for cleanliness goes back to his days in South Africa (1893-1914). At that time, the Indian community had not yet established a reputation for maintaining clean homes and Gandhiji aspired to transform this perception. He worked with the community to take voluntary measures to maintain hygiene. His thoughts on the matter were clearly reflected in his articles, statements and public rallies during the time. The historic turning point in our people’s understanding of sanitation as brought about by PM Modi’s call, brings back memories of the insistence that Gandhiji had all his life about the importance of cleanliness.

A unique call

While launching the Swachh Bharat Mission in 2014, the PM Modi had called upon the people to take a pledge to make India open defecation free (ODF), and this pledge was fulfilled with the construction of more than 10 crore toilets across the country. Now, the goal of Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban 2.0 is to make cities completely free of litter. PM Modi has attributed the achievements in urban regeneration and cleanliness to Mahatma Gandhi, stating these missions have been inspired by his vision and ideals.  

A nationwide sanitization drive is to be conducted in the run-up to Gandhi Jayanti on October 2. PM Modi has once again called upon fellow citizens to give one hour of their time and effort for cleanliness on the day. This mega cleanliness drive urges citizens from all walks of life to join in cleaning activities of public places like market spaces, railway tracks, water bodies, tourist locations, religious places etc.

The Prime Minister’s words that “In this, there is a mission, there is respect, there is dignity, there is also the ambition of a country and there is also unmatched love for the motherland,” reflect the importance of cleanliness. 

Goa’s example

The government of Goa has maintained an excellent record of ensuring cleanliness in the villages, cities and beaches in the state, with dedicated mechanisms in place including monitoring of the campaigns at different levels. Cleanliness drives are regularly organized by various primary health centres (PHCs) and community health centres (CHCs) from the Directorate of Health Services in their respective locations. These drives focus not only on collection and removal of garbage, but also inspection of construction sites, open spaces and backyards for any stagnation of water to prevent viral fever and various waterborne diseases. Such source reduction drives are held to raise awareness about dengue, malaria, and other vector-borne diseases (VBDs.)

As part of pre-monsoon preparedness also, special drives are undertaken for source reduction of mosquito breeding sites, such as removal of discarded tyres, properly disposing pet bottles, plastic cups and other discarded water receptacles.

Cleanliness drives are also organized by Anganwadi workers and helpers regularly in the areas around the Anganwadi centers (AWCs.) Special efforts are made to spread awareness about keeping our surrounding neat and clean among the children at the AWCs so that they imbibe the habits of maintaining cleanliness and personal hygiene. These children are also taught about environmental protection.

The Directorate of Health Services (DHS) also conducts regular sanitization drives in the community with the help of village health and sanitation committees, involving locally-elected representatives and the residents of the area. 

To celebrate the success of such initiatives, occasions like Village Health Day, Sanitization Day, and Nutrition Day are organized by DHS in collaboration with AWCs and panchayats. Such events not only acknowledge the hard work of all stakeholders, but also reinforce the commitment of the people towards cleanliness, health habits and sanitation.

It is widely recognized that upholding cleanliness and hygiene stands as one of the most crucial measures to mitigate or entirely halt the transmission of various diseases. Therefore, there is strict adherence to cleaning and disinfecting at the prestigious Goa Medical College (GMC) to keep the premises hygienic. GMC also ensures proper segregation of waste and its appropriate disposal. The cleaning and housekeeping work at the GMC hospital includes daily cleaning, sweeping, mopping, wet mopping and dusting all areas in shifts including cleaning of toilets, urinals, wash basins and sinks.

There are mechanisms in place to ensure quality and hygiene checks on these services. A checklist, on the cleaning activities cleaning of windows, doors, grills, window glasses, cleaning of fans and cupboards, is maintained and inspected on a daily basis.

Urban initiatives

The cooperation, efforts and contribution of every citizen are crucial for the success of the campaign promoting clean environment. It is a matter of extreme satisfaction, as our PM has noted, that the level of public participation with regard to cleanliness has risen tremendously. The present generation has taken the initiative to strengthen these campaigns, and small children now ask the elders to avoid creating a mess and litter. He has also said that “We have to remember that cleanliness is not a task just for a day, a fortnight, a year or for just a few people. Cleanliness is a great campaign for everyone, every day, every fortnight, every year, generation after generation. Cleanliness is a lifestyle; cleanliness is a life mantra.”

The Goa government has also decided to collaborate with health centers and the Urban Development Department to work towards combating VBDs and conducting other awareness activities. With this effort, the government has been successful in curbing the rapid spread of VBDs.

The Urban Development Department had organised 150 activities across the state, including an awareness program on the Swachhata League, an eco-friendly event, a zero-waste event for self-help groups (SHGs), awareness on single-use plastic, e-waste collection, sanitizing vegetable and fish markets, the felicitation of sanitation workers, cleanliness drives at mangroves, removing litter from beaches, the distribution of color-coded dustbins, rallies, a wall painting competition, the cleaning of drains and much more. 

Beaches give Goa a distinct identity, and a cleanliness drive was taken up at all 35 beaches in Goa some time ago. The Goa Forest Department also organizes beach cleaning drives. The three underlying goals of the campaign are to consume responsibly; segregate waste at home; and dispose responsibly.

Cleanliness drives are organized by the Forest Department also in sanctuaries, wildlife parks, and mangrove areas. To ensure that areas frequented by locals and tourists alike are kept clean and hazard-free, the Forest Department also has been conducting cleanliness drives at waterfall treks and forest areas.

Goa ranks high among the small states of the country in the cleanliness survey. The Goa government is striving to improve in all aspects of cleanliness to emerge as one of the best performing states, and among the cleanest in the country.

With the path shown by PM Modi, as per the teachings of Gandhiji, this year marks the beginning of new initiatives, launched with vigor and vision, to ensure that the state of Goa establishes yet another model of good governance.