From your letters to Akanksha it appears that you think self-transformation comes before we can transform things outside ourselves. So what is your view of our prime minister’s “Swachh Bharat” initiative?
How interesting to be asked this question! I am writing this on 5 January, only a few days after lots of people have made New Year resolutions. But as you probably know from your own experience, most such resolutions do not last. The reason is that we humans are fickle, driven by our changing feelings and flickering thoughts, as well as by what happens in the changing world around us. So we need not only the impulse to make a resolution but also structures that help us keep such resolutions.
For example, if you resolve to improve your performance at study or work, that is a large goal and a somewhat vague one. Within that large goal, a smaller goal might be to become better organised so as to be more effective and, in order to reduce vagueness, we need to add a time limit by which to achieve it. So a more specific goal might be to organize your table this week – and if your table is too much of a mess, you might decide to spend 20 minutes each day till you do get it in order.
Any such structure is greatly helped if you can not only check how you are doing at accomplishing your goal for each day or week, but also get a respected person to help you check it. Such a person could be involved only in checking how you are doing each day or week. If so, that person is being some kind of controller or supervisor. Alternatively, such a person might be involved in helping more fully with your overall goal – which, remember, is to improve your performance. If the person is involved in broader things, he or she is a mentor or coach to you.
Mentors or coaches not only help you monitor your progress against your goal, but they also help you understand the role that your conscious and unconscious beliefs and feelings play in helping you or in stopping you reaching your goal.
Now let us apply all that to our PM’s “Swachh Bharat” campaign. He is trying to encourage everyone to be aware of his campaign, for example, by enlisting the help of film stars and other celebrities. That is good. He is also trying to set up monitoring mechanisms, for example, by getting officials to check whether public toilets are being used. That too is good. But he has not yet related his “Swachh Bharat” campaign to our conscious and unconscious beliefs and feelings as a nation.
A pure heart for a clean world
Let me mention two related issues. The first is that we Indians like to keep our homes clean but are not bothered about however dirty things are outside our home. So the campaign would be greatly helped if it came up with slogans like “Bharat hamara ghar hai, aaeeye ham sab millkar isay swachh rakkhen” (India is our home, let us all work together to keep it clean). But the slogans need to go beyond our own country, to the world as a whole, because we don’t simply want to land our dirt in other countries, just as we don’t want other countries to dump their dirt on us. So we need to have slogans more like “Yeh Desh, Yeh Dharti hamaari hai, aaeeye ham sab millkey inhen swachh rakkkhen” (this country, and this world, is our home; let us all work together to keep them clean).
But that brings us immediately to the second issue: in reality, the work that is needed to be done in order to keep things “swachh”, even in our homes, is not done by “all” of us but only by the women and lower castes. We throw things or drop them carelessly even at home and expect our mothers, sisters, servants and others (such as the municipality and the government) to clear up after us.
Till these basic beliefs and attitudes are changed we will not succeed in having a “Swachh Bharat”. In other words, the root of “aswachhta” in our country is our culture’s discrimination against lower castes as well as against women.
We need not only awareness, campaigns and abhiyaans in order to have a “Swachh Bharat”, but we also need a “Swachh Dil” and a “Swachh Dimaag” that rejects discrimination against lower castes and women, and treats everyone with equal dignity.
Instead, our prime minister is trying to strengthen caste consciousness, which is the basic reason we have “aswachhta” in our country! So he is trying to increase outer cleanliness while reducing inner cleanness!!!
We need to reject the inner uncleanness (or “androoni aswachhta”) of Manuvaad with its caste consciousness and discrimination against women. We need to have a “Swachh Dil” and “Swachh Dimaag” so that we can have a “Swachh Bharat”.
Those who created the Constitution of our country were aware of this problem. That is why the article prohibiting caste and gender discrimination was written into our Constitution. In that sense, our Constitution is indeed a document that commits us to profoundly change our Manuvaadi culture. Unfortunately, the party which is currently ruling our nation is trying to undo that Constitution, that ufoundation.
Well, they will be held accountable for what they do, as well as what they don’t do, for our country. You and I can resolve to work all the harder in the tradition of those who framed our Constitution, in order to continue the fight against caste and gender discrimination, the fight to create a Swachh Bharat by creating Swachh Dil, Swachh Dimaag, and Swachh Karam.
Published in the February 2015 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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