NEW DELHI: On Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s orders, bureaucrats and ministers will be at work tomorrow on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, leading their departments in cleaning up their offices, including toilets.
The move is part of a nationwide Swachh Bharat or Clean India campaign, which will be launched by the PM; he is expected to take a broom to the notoriously filthy streets of Delhi.
The drive is partly aimed at sprucing up government offices which are often littered with rubbish, stink of urine and have walls dirtied with dried spit. In recent days, ministers like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Smriti Irani and Ram Vilas Paswan have been seen sweeping parts of their offices. Anant Geete joined the list today; the Shiv Sena’s only state minister is expected to resign after the PM returns from the US because the alliance between his party and the ruling BJP has ended.
Advertisements in newspapers recently urged residents of Delhi to “come forward in large numbers” for the programme’s launch. PM Modi’s photo-op with a broom has been planned at Valmiki Basti in north Delhi, where he will also inaugurate a toilet complex.
The PM has stressed the importance of sanitation in almost all his public speeches since his May victory, vowing to make India clean by 2019, to coincide with the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi.
During the freedom movement, Gandhi had said “sanitation was more important than independence.”
Roughly half of India’s population do not have toilets in their homes, a health and safety problem that Mr Modi has also vowed to fix.
In a joint editorial written with the PM on Tuesday in the Washington Post, President Barack Obama said that the US will help with the Clean India initiative.
After taking office in May, the PM asked his ministers to ensure their departments are tidied up and that officers report to work at 9 am. Ministers like Prakash Javadekar have conducted surprise checks, penalizing those employees who were late.