Sweeping Changes

Sweeping Changes

Mahatma Gandhi would have been rather pleased with the way Thaneites observed his death anniversary last week. On January 30, 2003, which is also observed as Martyr’s day, 600 students from 10 city-based schools paid homage to the freedom fighters and other martyrs in a novel way – they toiled in the hot sun to clean the garden area surrounding the Upvan Lake.

The students were participating in what was called the Shram-Sanskar Shibir (or work-philosophy camp, organised by the Jidnyasa Trust in association Srimati Savitridevi Thirani School. The programme was aimed at inculcating the habit of cleanliness among all. From 9 am in the morning, the students began to clean and painstakingly picked the scattered junk thrown by insensitive citizens. At 11 a.m. the students gathered to pay respects to the martyrs. Afterwards, each student took an oath that they will "conserve nature, protect the environment and keep the surroundings clean." Surendra Dighe, the head of Jidnyasa, reveals that the oath is actually a reminder of what the Indian Constitution has laid out – that it is the responsibility of every citizen to keep his surroundings clean.

Earlier, the teachers accompanying the students as well as the several VIPs, who attended the programme, set an example by venturing into the lake and getting rid of the floating litter. Dighe said, "Thankfully, the lake was not as bad as last year. So it did not take much effort to clean it."

Thane’s Deputy Mayor Subhash Kale who presided as chief guest, praised the students no end for their effort. He emphasised the importance of cleanliness saying, "It is our duty to keep our neighbourhood and our city as clean as we keep ourselves and our respective homes".

Most of us will agree with what Kale said. Unfortunately, as a society, our sense of cleanliness is indeed lopsided. Indians certainly believe that cleanliness is next to Godliness. So we keep maintain cleanliness in temples and other places of worship. We take extra care to keep these places free from dirt. We leave our footwear outside. Bathing (cleaning of self) is also an equally important part of Indian culture. Yet, when it comes to our civic sense, all these virtues are forgotten. Most of us litter on the roads without ever thinking twice. Spitting in public is another common phenomenon. This is not just a civic problem – it is a common social ailment – something that must be eradicated, if only to maintain our own health. Hygiene, sanitation and cleanliness ought to be given much more importance than is being given today – both by the government as well as the community at large. Strangely, it takes epidemics such as plague to shake up the mindset of the people in our country. Sadly, even that is soon forgotten.  

By cleaning the Upvan area, the 600 students have reminded us that it is our collective responsibility to keep our neighbourhoods and our cities clean. I think its time for a sweeping change (pun intended). Let us all emulate the 600 students by taking an oath to conserve nature, protect the environment and maintain cleanliness all around. After all, even our constitution demands it!

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