NEW DELHI: While Prime Minister Narendra Modi launches his ambitious Swachh Bharat project in New Delhi on Thursday, saffronclad ‘volunteers’ across ashrams, temples and akhadas will pool in manpower to take the message of public hygiene to the masses, from Varanasi to Kanchi. The BJP-led government has reached out to several Hindu religious and spiritual organisations seeking their support for the project, and according to officials, among those that have already been contacted are the Ramakrishna Mission, Patanjali Yogpeeth of Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living, Gayatri Pariwar, Kanchi Kamakoti Peeth and Siddha Ganga Math.
As the project advances, more organisations will be roped in to “spread the message of cleanliness and hygiene” among people, they said. Urban development ministry officials said they are also in talks with Muslim and Christian organisations to take the movement forward, but no organisation has been approached formally so far.
“We had received communication from Union minister Venkaiah Naidu and we have assured him full support in this campaign,” said Rajdeep Arya, spokesperson for Patanjali Yogpeeth. He said Ramdev was on a trip to Europe and will himself be part of the campaign from October 12.
“Tomorrow we are starting an intensive cleaning of 80 ghats of Ganga from Shankaracharya chowk in Haridwar,” he said. The yogpeeth has selected 600 districts to promote the campaign. Clusters will be selected and developed into “model villages”, he said. At the ghats, they will be planting saplings of tulsi, ashwagandha and arjun to keep them clean and green.
“We are asking our devotees, who can afford, to adopt villages and make them clean,” Arya said.Ramdev will also organise a conclave of saints and sadhus to request all akhadas to join the movement, Arya said. “Our 30,000 workers have been asked to participate in the campaign with full vigour. Except for places in South India and Northeast, we have presence everywhere,” he added.
Kanchi Kamakoti Peeth led by Jayendra Saraswati in Tamil Nadu has also been roped in for the campaign. “We are focusing on cleaning 200 towns and villages that have temples and ponds. We have identified 55 villages along Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram wherein the temples are very dirty, we will start with them,” said N Sundaresan of the peeth.
Volunteers in these organisations feel reverence for nature is an integral part of Hinduism and that is what people need to understand to make the country clean. Kedar Prasad Dubey, spokesperson for Gayatri Pariwar, said from this week, it has made two hours of weekly cleaning — ‘swachhta shram’ — compulsory in all 5,000 institutions run by the organisation.
“Our focus initially is on cities such as Puri, Rameshwaram, Pushkar, Ayodhya and Amravati to make them clean.” All the organisations have planned programmes on Thursday to coincide with the inauguration of the campaign by Prime Minister Modi. Most of them had wholeheartedly supported Modi in his election campaign.
This is not the first time sadhus and sants have been involved in cleanliness campaigns, said Rama Rauta, founder and convener, Save Ganga Movement, adding that they had been roped in several times to clean rivers too. “It is important to involve everyone in the project, but rivers, ghats and places alongside them are mainly dirty because of religious activities. Unless sadhus adopt a scientific approach and employ the neighbourhood community in activities, their efforts are shortlived,” he said.
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan aims not just at making India clean but also eliminating open defecation and manual scavenging while also providing financial assistance to over 1 crore individual households to build toilets and the construction of nearly 2.5 lakh public toilets.