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Even the Japanese experts hired to draw up a plan for a clean-up have thrown up their hands. Below: The other Hindu ‘Mother’ on a street in Varanasi, surrounded not by flowers and offerings, but a pile of garbage.

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Cleaning The Uncleanable:
Modi's 'Clean India' Debacle






EDITOR'S NOTE:   Hindus refer to River Ganges as Mother. Varanasi, sitting on its banks, is not only the ’holy of Hindu holies’ but also Narendra Modi’s personal constituency from which he was elected to India’s parliament and then became its prime minister. It is here that Modi launched his much touted ’Clean India’ campaign. And this city has been represented by the BJP, the self-declared Hindu fundamentalist party, for 25 years now.

Here’s the state of affairs of a river, a city and a country swimming in and sinking under a sea of garbage, more than 18 months after Hindutva was declared the national credo.


Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Narendra Modi, showcases an ugly truth a year after the Prime Minister flagged off the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign from this holy of Hindu holies.

With 100 tonnes of garbage piling high each day, the municipal authorities have gone on overdrive a week ahead of the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe’s visit to his counterpart’s electoral turf on 12 December.

While the facelift need not be faulted, the authorities will have to accept that the civic grandstanding on 8 November last year, when Modi picked up a spade to remove silt from Assi ghat alongside the Ganga, was only for the birds ... and almost literally so. For it is the crows and cattle that now feed on the accumulated muck.

More than a year later, Varanasi as one of the starting points of the 'Swachh Bharat' abhiyan (mission) makes a mockery of what has been packaged as the Modi government’s flagship endeavour.

The river remains ever so filthy as does the pilgrim town.

Indeed, filth has been piling under a municipality that boasts no fewer than 2,700 conservancy workers. Astonishingly enough, there has been no progress since last year’s photo-op, and the tax-payer must be secretly grateful to the Prime Minister of Japan for the clean-up drive ... however seasonal.

With considerable fanfare, the ‘mission’ has reportedly been resumed after one year and 23 days. Pray why? Abe and Modi are scheduled to attend the Ganga arti, the evening ritual at Dasashwamedh Ghat. Even “outsourced sweepers”, to quote the mayor, are being deployed to complete the facelift before the two Prime Ministers witness the riveting rituals of a vigorous faith. It is hard not to wonder whether Swachh Varanasi is of lesser moment in the long-term perspective.

In terms of cleanliness, the town has on occasion repelled the Japanese as it has the tax-payers. The clean-up in honour of Japan’s Head of Government can be contextualised with the visit of Japanese experts, who a fortnight ago had left the city, thoroughly disgusted at the ubiquitous sight of garbage on the streets.

The fallout being that the agreement on civic projects - to transform Varanasi to another Kyoto - was not concluded, as scheduled. The pact would have covered Varanasi’s water supply, sewage, solid waste management, and heritage conservation. Thus did a critical initiative in urban development come to nought.

The town remains far removed from the Japanese city, and not merely in terms of distance. It is an index to municipal indifference that green toilets, inaugurated by Modi at Assi Ghat, were locked soon after he boarded the flight out of the city.

Has 'Swachh Bharat' come a cropper?

Very probably it has... in the Prime Minister’s constituency.

[Courtesy: The Statesman]

December 9, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Abhayjit Biswas (Kharagpur, West Bengal, India), December 09, 2015, 7:50 AM.

Now you know why so many of us Hindus go to Varanasi to die ... because it is the actual being there that kills one. It's our version of what you in the West term "assisted suicide".

2: Harleen Kaur (Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India), December 09, 2015, 7:56 AM.

A mere 8 miles from the core of Varanasi is the Buddhist town of Sarnath. If you visit it (or go there via Google), you'll see the sharp contrast between a Hindu milieu and a non-Hindu one in this country. It also explains why Hindu fundamentalists have for centuries tried to wipe out Buddhism. And why, for example, they feel such antipathy to Sikhism. The sheer justaposition embarrasses them. But then, they won't do ANYTHING about it. Just like Modi ... only talk, talk, talk, and a lot of hot air, and zero substance, no action. Modi and his gang are all too busy lining their pockets and feathering their nests.

3: Jaswinder Singh (Brier, Washington State, USA), December 09, 2015, 11:23 PM.

Abhayjit Biswas: Very funny! Can't stop giggling.

4: Jagraj Singh (USA), December 15, 2015, 10:51 AM.

Sikhism believes in cleanliness of body, mind and environment. In stark contrast, Hinduism focuses on ritual cleanliness and little else.

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Modi's 'Clean India' Debacle"

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