Swachhta anthem builds a positive spirit

Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, several cities have developed their own city-specific swachhta anthems as part of the Information, Education and Communication (IEC) activity. In these cities, the anthem is played on radio, cable TV, on the waste pick-up trucks and also popularised in schools and colleges. In some cities, the anthem has become quite popular. Most children in Indore, for instance, would know the lyrics of the city’s swachhta anthem “Ho Hallah” and Indorities take great pride in singing it. A well-composed swachhta song aids in building pride for a clean city and in retaining the importance of cleanliness on the minds and hearts of the citizens.

Gurugram’s own Swachhta Anthem “Swachhta Ki Dhoom” was produced and launched on January 12, 2019. The timing of the launch couldn’t have been better. The Swachh Sarvekshan 2019 (that evaluates and compares sanitation standards across 4000 plus cities in India) has begun from January 4 to January 31 and there is heightened IEC activity across the city. The song is slowly gaining popularity and has had 4,000 likes on youtube within the first three days of the launch. Hopefully, along with the other IEC activities – workshops, hoardings, distributing leaflets, swachhta pledges – the song should help the city move forward in its aim to become cleaner.

The intent was to create a song that was inspirational, that had all the key messages and was lively and appealing to the youngsters. Its underlying motto was that Swachhta or cleanliness must become a way of life, a habit. It has to come naturally to us, not something that is imposed on us. And waste champions need to be the “cool dudes” of the city, recognised and acclaimed by the government and civil society for bringing positive change. Only, then can the collective consciousness of a city be raised towards waste management. There was no better way to say this the language we all understand best, that of song and music.

The 4.48 minute song sung in Hindi has key messages such as urging citizens to stop waste dumping, focus on cleanliness of roads and neighbourhoods, relation of cleanliness with health, importance of waste segregation and composting, avoiding use of plastics and polythene, and encouraging use of public toilets and dustbins. In the end, it talks about celebrating cleanliness just like any other festival. The melody has been kept catchy and vibrant and a few lines of rap have been added to make it popular with the youngsters.

The video of the song displays different key stakeholders including children, senior citizens, waste champions, councillors, sanitation bandhus, college students and MCG officials singing the anthem demonstrating that each stakeholder has a role to play and that it needs the might of all stakeholders together to make a difference. The video also demonstrates most of the positive steps on waste management taken by the citizens and authorities in the recent past, including building clean toilets across the city, constructing a road in Sector 51 from plastic waste and community composting among other things.

The next step is to popularise the song. Our team is planning to sing the song live on “Raahgiri day currently held in Sector 4  with the participants. The song is already running on local radio, Gurgaon Ki Awaaz”. It will be shown across at cinema halls and played in malls. We are tying up with schools to play the song with school bands. A live performance is also being held at Government Girls College, Sector 14. In live events, the idea is to give all key messages about waste management along with the song. A downloadable link to make the main lines (mukhda) of the song as “caller tune” is also on cards. In future, there would be more versions of the song with supplementary messages. There is a plan to build interesting competitions around the theme “ Swachhta Ki Dhoom”. More local music talent will be involved in further versions of the song. The idea is to build excitement and enthusiasm about waste management.

A disclaimer. The song can only do as much. It can create enthusiasm and excitement towards waste management. It can also spread key information in an interesting way. But it has to certainly be backed up with action. The newly constructed public toilets need to be used, remain functional and clean. There is still considerable amount of open waste dumping in the city. Waste segregation is inadequate and the bioremediation efforts at the landfill needs to be speeded up. More and more bulk waste generators need to start composting. Besides, ragpickers need to be integrated in the formal waste value chain.   

Of the total 5,000 marks in the Swachh Sarvekshan 2019 on which cities are being assessed, the allocation of marks is as follows – direct observation (25 per cent), citizen feedback (25 per cent), service level progress (25 per cent) and certification including star rating and ODF status (25 per cent). (Gurugram is aiming for five-star rating and ODF plus plus status to get better marks on certifications).

By the division of marks, one can see that citizens have a great role to play in the city’s rankings. Active citizen engagement is being assessed by how many of them have downloaded the swachhta app and reporting cleanliness-related issues or have given citizen’s feedback on the app, and how many have reported waste-related developmental activities on the website platform Swachhta Manch. Last year, Gurugram’s ranking in Swachh Sarvekshan was 105. This time the hope is that it features among the top 50 clean cities of India.

While the ranking is an important indicator, the city should aim for a more holistic, deeper and permanent transformation. Improved rankings would then simply be a by-product of that change. Then Gurugram would be celebrating “Swachhta ki Dhoom” in the true sense.

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