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India’s new broomance Swachh Bharat Abhiyan gets brands to the party!

…my father, let my country AWAKE!

Rabindranath Tagore

This famous quote symbolized the Swachh Bharat campaign, when Prime Minister announced this on the 2nd of October – his vision for a Clean India by 2019. Narendra Modi also threw open the Swachh Bharat challenge to nine celebrities – Sachin Tendulkar, Shashi Tharoor, Anil Ambani, Salman Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Kamal Haasan, Mridula Sinha, Ramdev and the TV serial team “Tarak Mehta ka Ulta Chashma”. He in turn asked each one of them to nominate nine more people to join the campaign and from there the chain would continue.

Brilliant idea! All of the celebrities took up the challenge and they were seen on the streets with the brooms cleaning up the neighborhood. It certainly inspired a number of people all over the country – who in his right mind wouldn’t want a cleaner neighborhood? It was a stroke of genius by the Prime Minister to get people motivated on this national cause. Gandhiji, as a leader was known for mobilizing crowd for such activities during our freedom struggle, and it was only appropriate that this was announced on Gandhi Jayanthi.

There is a huge investment outlay for this project – estimated cost is 2 lakh crores in the next 5 years. In anticipation of this investment, already the stock prices of some companies have gone up. These companies are in the business of sanitary ware, plastics, and ceramics.

RB (formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser) has partnered with NDTV and Facebook to launch “Dettol – Banega Swachh India’ to piggyback on Swachh Bharat Campaign – a 5 years ambitious program to address the rising need of hygiene and sanitation in India. They have roped in Amitabh Bacchan as the brand ambassador for this initiative and they have committed a sum of 100 crores for this campaign over the next 5 years.

There certainly is traction in terms of corporate initiatives; however the euphoria of the first few days had died down. How do you revive this? Maybe, a report card or a dashboard on the lines of attendance.gov.in that gives a detailed account on the progress of this initiative. Also, try and evolve a sanitation index for the urban and rural areas separately.

Sanitation after all brings the greatest return on investment – for every $1 spent on sanitation, at least $9 is saved in health, education and economic development. It is time for us to embrace and promote this initiative and it would be great progress even if we achieve 20 to 30% of what we have set out to achieve by 2019.