Is Swachh Bharat Only For The Nation? - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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Is Swachh Bharat Only For The Nation?

Nov 04, 2014


I was sitting in a cab the other day and my cab driver was coughing. So I gave him one of the lozenges that I normally carry with me in my bag. He said thank you, popped the Vicks in, and threw the wrapper out of the window. He didn't think twice, he didn't care who was watching, he did what came naturally to him.

We see this happening all the time, and across sections of people. Even the owner of a Mercedes-Benz will roll down his window and, with complete nonchalance, flick a piece of paper or worse still spit outside his car.

And all this while the nation is busy consuming photos in the media of some celebrity or the other picking up a broom and sweeping the streets in a show of solidarity to the Prime Minister's newly-launched campaign for a clean India -- Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Use the Broom
Source: FooTToo / Shutterstock

I'm happy that this campaign has started. And I'm glad it's taken national proportions and everyone is being encouraged to hold the broom no matter what the rank and file. But what disturbs me is the fact that there is not enough information and education on why cleanliness is needed. And the fact that cleanliness is first and foremost an individual mindset before it becomes a national one.

When I researched on cleanliness online, all I found were definitions of the physical act of cleaning... Of being stain-free, spotless, immaculate, germ-free and odor-free. Take for instance, this one on Wikipedia: Cleanliness means that there is no dirt, no dust, no stains, no bad smells. The purposes of cleanliness is health, beauty, absence of offensive odor and to avoid the spreading of dirt and contaminants to oneself and others...

I felt strangely uncomfortable while reading these definitions of cleanliness. I felt they were too simplified and didn't adequately encompass such a broad-based term like 'cleanliness'.

Cleanliness has different connotations for different people. For a child it could be washing his hands after he uses the toilet while for a mother it could mean sterilizing the water bottle the child uses. The child thinks about his own well-being, the mother thinks about the health of the family. As we progress through the years, the meaning of cleanliness keeps changing.

In my view, cleanliness is cyclical. It moves from being personal to environmental to societal, eventually going on to represent a whole civilisation.

Like Muhammad Ali Musofer mentions in an article, Importance of Cleanliness: "The significance of cleanliness and hygiene cannot be overlooked by any society. Every faith and civilisation stresses the importance of cleanliness. Historically, cleanliness has been considered one of the important factors by which to judge a civilisation's or society's development."

But civilisations are first and foremost made up of individuals. Hence cleanliness begins at the level of the personal. And isn't the personal made up of the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual? If all these four are taken care of, we need not worry about our everyday actions, they will automatically reflect a cleaner way of thinking and living.

So how do we detox the mind, body, heart and soul? How do we ensure that we constantly do our own internal spring cleaning before we pick up the broom to clean up the streets and make India a cleaner nation?

If we assume all the above four make up our entire personal being, here are some suggestions to help you keep yourself 'germ-free'

Physical Hygiene: A medical student Sofiya Sujad in her blog Personal hygiene: Stay clean, stay fresh, stay healthy! writes: "Personal hygiene refers to practices that aim at an individual's cleanliness and grooming of his own self. It is innate for the human being to practice personal hygiene... Personal hygiene is essential for reasons of health, culture and style... Also, man is a social animal. One risks his acceptance in society if his appearance is unkempt and his body, unclean."

Personal hygiene is an ongoing daily practice. From brushing your teeth to showering to trimming your nails and wearing neat and clean clothes, it encompasses everything internal and external to the body. Additionally, eating healthy and well-cooked foods, washing fruits and vegetables you consume, eating in proportionate amounts, having enough water to flush out toxins and not over-indulging and abusing your system make up personal hygiene.

Mental Sanitation: There's a quote by Mahatma Gandhi that represents this idea well: "I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet." The mind is one place which can get clogged up by filth very easily. And this is normally due to our innumerable thoughts which we have little control over. Research shows that the human mind has almost 50,000-70,000 thoughts per day and approx. 35-48 thoughts per minute per person.

Can you believe that's how overcrowded your mind can get? Therefore it is important to clear your mind and do away with some of those thoughts, especially the unnecessary and negative ones that stand in the way of you and your tasks. They may also hamper unbiased, clear and honest communication between you and the people around you. For mental sanitation, yoga has worked wonders. By using techniques that focus on the transient breath and wandering mind, yoga helps still the mind and make it focus better. Other activities like playing a sport or dabbling in music also enhance concentration.

Emotional Detox: "Having emotions, even negative ones, is part of being human. But when we don't have the skills to learn from our feelings and move forward, we can get mired in negativity, which prevents us from reaching our full potential." These lines from the blog 7 Emotions That Don't Serve You by John Kim, stress the importance of decluttering our emotional space for higher personal and professional performance.

Very often we are weighed down by emotions of guilt, shame, hurt, anger, powerlessness and rejection, all preventing us from moving easily toward our goals. One way of detoxing from these heavy emotions is by identifying them and accepting them for what they are. Journaling can be used effectively here. The next step is to understand why you're feeling the way you are, and the final step is to act on that feeling. For example, if you feel angry with someone, find a nice way of telling him why you feel so. In the same blog, John Kim gives an interesting formula to rid yourself of excessive emotions:

Acknowledgement + Examination + Action= FREEDOM

Spiritual Cleansing: A blog on states that, "Spiritual cleansing is based on the concept that everything is energy: humans, thoughts, plants, rocks, light, emotions, animals, space... everything. Energies impact and change each other." Thus spiritual cleansing is a way of ensuring that these energies are flowing freely without any blocks or negativity.

These words may seem vague and esoteric and belonging to those who conduct psychic activities. But they're actually not so. In fact, spiritual cleansing comprises several rituals that we already practice in our daily lives. From prayers to various forms of mediation to religious rituals to chanting of mantras and sacred verses, all help in keeping our energies calm and stress-free. Simple random acts of kindness also make our spirit stronger.

Once you've taken care of your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual cleanliness, picking up a broom will no longer become necessary. Cleanliness will become a part of you and you will reflect the same values on to your environment.


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10 Responses to "Is Swachh Bharat Only For The Nation?"


08 Nov, 2014

In my 70 years of LIFE I have observed that the best Municipal Corporations are involved in DISPOSITIONING of the Waste,and dump them in the near vicinity WHILE MORE PLANNING needs to be focussed on DISPOSAL & its logistics , as that will destroy the Junk and make space.

ramarao m

07 Nov, 2014

i and my friend teamed up to make four non functional school toilet systems functional in four adjoining hamlets in kadtal ,50 kms from hyderabad in telangana. i invite others to join in this programme. i find most govt schools have toilets but most of them do not have water are drainage facilities. i suggest small groups of people should come forward and join this yagna.


07 Nov, 2014

Swatch Bharath is better late than never. No sooner we achieve it we do not need polluting industries. We have so much heritage places. Tourism will be the cleanest and most lucrative industry.


06 Nov, 2014

Cleanliness is indeed a wider term.We need to start from ourselves by making our home cluster free by throwing or better giving away the things we really don't need. Organising ourselves .Making ourselves presentable. All this will makes our life easy & comfortable.Cleanliness need to become a habit. It need to be put in every child. But for that we need to practise first, as the child learns what he see. Better late than never, let us all consciously practise cleanliness atleast from onwards.


05 Nov, 2014

It is very important to be swachh in our life but not only from only physical cleanliness but in all sort of life we want cleanliness. But good efforts on your part and we salute for it.


05 Nov, 2014

Physical cleanliness is very important.So start from smaller steps like take the broom clean your surrounding and take help of others and extent helps to others, towards every cleanliness (Physical,Mental etc).In this regard you can learn about Sri Narayana Gurus "PANCHA Shudhi"- Narayana Guru Devan (ca. 1854–1928), also seen as Sree Narayana Guru Swami, was a Hindu sant, sadhu and social reformer of India. He was born into an Ezhava family, in an era when people from that community and other communities that were regarded as Avarna faced much social injustice in the caste-ridden society of Kerala. Gurudevan, as he was known by his followers, led a reform movement in Kerala, rejected casteism and promoted new values of spiritual freedom and social equality.[1] The Sivagiri pilgrimage is said to have been conceived by Vallabhasseri Govindan Vaidyar and T K Kittan Writer, along with the poet Mooloor S. Padmanabha Panicker. Though the idea to hold a pilgrimage was approved by Sree Narayana Guru as early as 1928, it was not until 1932 that the first pilgrimage was undertaken.[6] Sree Narayana stated the goals of the pilgrimage to be the promotion of Education Cleanliness Devotion to God Organization Agriculture Trade Handicrafts Technical training He advised Vaidyar and Writer to organise a series of lectures on the themes with experts conducting them. The lectures should be listened to attentively. More important, the principles should be put into practice. Success must accompany efforts. Only then will the country and the people benefit. this must be the core purpose of Sivagiri pilgrimage.

Bhupinder Sandhu

05 Nov, 2014

Nice thoughts. But if we want to change a thing and think of all that we need to change, it becomes overwhelming and deters us from starting.In this context Modi's initiative to simply clean the surroundings is a fantastic has already changed my mind set.Starting small and simple will take us far.


04 Nov, 2014

"Swatch Bharti will automatically lead to Swatch Bharat"


04 Nov, 2014

Swachh Bharat does not mean to have a broom stick and clean the streets alone but to maintain the public toilets properly, ensure that the sewage chambers do not overflow or the pipes leak, drainage water is routed out of the city neatly, placing dust bins at regular distance on the platforms, ensure the roads are broomed at both sides to prevent skidding of vehicles and a lot more. All that i can see is a political stunt of having a broom in hand on the streets by our politicians and celebrities in all leading newspaper and cable channels. Very funny.


04 Nov, 2014

An excellent ,thought provoking article.

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