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Mindsets need to change: Foreigners on Clean India mission
Saturday October 4, 2014 4:55 PM, Rupesh Dutta, IANS

Mindsets need to change if Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Mission to make the country litter and squalor free in the next five years is to succeed, diplomats and foreign tourists say.

"I believe that all countries, developing and developed, have realised too late the importance of a clean environment," Swedish Ambassador Harald Sandberg told IANS.

"It is great that this understanding is now emphasised in India. I believe that care for our environment begins at home and builds to the broader, national and global issues," he added.

Namibian Ambassador Pius Dunaiski said it was "impressive to see the government take such a lead in mobilising such a big country of 1.25 billion citizens".

"If the Modi government is successful in energising the people in every corner of India, especially in the mega cities, and changing their mindsets, India can be like any European country in terms of tidiness.

"Strong leadership and linking the initiative with Mahatma Gandhi, who is really respected worldwide, can bring the change India has needed since decades," Dunaiski told IANS.

Modi Thursday twice wielded the broom, at the Mandir Marg police station and at the Valmiki Colony, where Mahatma Gandhi once stayed, to launch the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a nationwide campaign that seeks to change the mindsets of Indians and make India a clean nation in every way.

The prime minister also administered near the India Gate monument a cleanliness pledge which said that Indians had a responsibility of fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi's dream of ridding the country of dirt and filth by 2019 - the year that would mark Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary.

Christine Barlow, a tourist from England, said: "It is amazing to see this compulsory cleanliness drive in India. It is a good initiative, but cleanliness is a basic etiquette and you can't force it to people. Change of mindset is necessary. Indian men still pee on the roads and this is one of the most unfortunate things."

"So, will there be a drive to teach these etiquettes to men? What people need to understand is that they have to take responsibility. Unless this happens, these drives are meaningless," Barlow said.

"Cleanliness is a fundamental responsibility of every citizen. If people are not willing to keep their surroundings clean, then how can a government's initiative change their mindset towards it," Carlissa Shervell, a 25-year-old designer from Bristol, wondered.

She said European nations have imposed a ban on plastic bags and other material hazardous to the environment. She had come to know that even India has done that, but implementation lags. "However, during my every visit to India, I have seen people themselves demanding plastic bags from the shopkeepers despite knowing about the ban."

Eva Johnson from Adelaide, who is in India as part of her research work, said that unlike in other nations, cleanliness in India is not part of the the basic subjects for citizens.

"The people have a perception that it is the role of the government to keep the public places clean and general citizens do not have any role towards it. This is not prevalent in European nations. So where is the mindset for cleanliness?"

"The Modi government, of course, is doing a great thing. However, until punishment and fines are imposed, the mindsets of the people can't be changed," Johnson told IANS.

Nigerian tourist Ogar said it is up to the government to motivate citizens to keep their environment clean.

"India is doing well, and if it keeps on bringing up initiatives like the Clean India campaign, it can become a clean and hygienic country," Ogar said.

(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted at

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