Just do a small experiment, don’t clean your room for a week, throw your laundry around, tilt your paintings & decos and you yourself will notice a perceivable difference in your attitude & emotions. Now imagine the entire country has been in the state of disarray for centuries. I cannot even extrapolate what benefits we can accrue by cleaning it up.
Hygiene is important not only for aesthetic and psychological reasons, according to UNO it has tangible economical benefits too. A substantial portion of productive manpower is lost due to illness and weakening due to chronic diseases caused due to consumption of unsanitary water, food and air. The degradation of environment due to human waste imposes additional cost to the consumers who need to clean their food, water and other natural resources before consumption. Foul smell and uncleanness triggers our primal survival instincts. Several research has proven that youth brought up in clean & green neighborhood are less prone to acts of vandalism & crime. Also hygiene is one of the most important criteria for tourism and even investments/expansions or even procurement decisions.
India has has a long history of clean and hygienic practices. Even the religion degrees Hindus to take bath daily, daily clean the house before putting the rangoli/white powder drawing in the front yard. These were followed in the times when the rest of the world practiced weekly/monthly baths. However somewhere down the line we forgot to develop on these noble thoughts.
Modi’s mission of clean India is an amazing policy initiative whose benefits will accrue across demographics, industries & pan India. I have a simple metric to gauge to gauge the relevance of any public policy:
1. Is it tangible? The benefits/results of the movement can be gauged by individuals themselves.
2. Does it inspire? It primarily involves changes in attitude & behavior and can easily become a self sustainable engine.
3. Who benefits? Unlike subsidies that benefit only those who have connects/well to do, there is no license/document requirement to enjoy the fruits of the initiative
4. Can it provide some short term low hanging results immediately to sustain the momentum: 2nd Oct drive itself was a great showcase story.
5. Does it improve the socio-economic mobility? (help the poor to overcome adversity that limits their ability to achieve “pursuit of happiness”) The poor will benefit the most from improved sanitation, lesser instance of diarrhea, cholera, malaria, good toilets, clean drinking water and food.
6. Intangible benefits: Cleaner environment and improved state of public resources (streets, rivers, air, public places etc.), better health.
7. Investment requirement is also minimal. Hence it is unlikely to be reversed/slashed by the subsequent government.
The only other policy in the past 3 decades that had such remarkable impact on this 7 scale metric was mid-day meal which aimed at eliminating child malnutrition and poor school attendance due to pressure from the family to earn (child labor). I am hoping that this policy will make India a cleaner and greener place.