Almost immediately after coming to power in India, Prime Minister Modi launched a campaign to clean up the country (called Clean India). He asked: “After so many years of independence, do we still want to live in filthiness? Can’t we resolve this much?” His goal was pretty lofty too, (over) promising that “we will have a country where there is not even a speck of dirt in our village, city, street, area, school, temple and hospital.”
Modi launched the Clean India campaign in 2014 by urging bureaucrats to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth by sweeping instead of taking the day off:
“All staff were “requested” to come to work on Thursday by 9am and take a “cleanliness pledge”, promising to devote at least 100 hours every year – or two hours a week – to cleaning up, then pick up the broom and start cleaning immediately. As proof, before and after photographs have to be submitted.”
You can imagine how thrilled the bureaucrats were when they heard the news. I love the part about the before and after pics too.
Well, apparently there is still dirt to be removed and the Clean India campaign continues. The government is emphasizing the importance of ending “open defecation” and claims the it will “install 110 million toilets nationwide by 2019.” This seems like an important goal since 40% of the population lack access to “safe, functioning commodes.”
For a number of reasons, the campaign isn’t going so well. One of the reasons seems to be cultural, in that many poor households have a long list of goods they would like to buy before adding a toilet to the house. The article reports that a recent study used “survey data to rank 21 basic consumer goods in the order that Indian households would prefer to acquire them. According to their analysis, toilets ranked 12th — meaning a poor family would buy a television, a pressure cooker or a motorcycle before it acquired a toilet.”
So now there is growing demand for politicians to be role models when it comes to toilet use. Seriously.
“The western state of Maharashtra this past week became the latest to pass a law requiring those running in municipal and village-level elections to present proof that they have access to working toilets. Five Indian states — with combined populations of nearly 400 million people, or roughly one-third of the country — have enacted similar legislation over the past two years.”
Opponents of the bill argue that rules like this “disqualify many poor candidates as well as those living in urban areas who use shared public toilets.” The government eventually agreed and decided that candidates only needed to produce a certificate saying they had access to a “functioning toilet.” I wonder which ministry is in charge of issuing these certificates… At least you can forget about framing any fancy diplomas when decorating your new office–you can just proudly display your toilet certificate instead!