In the Footsteps of Mahatma


by Wilma Rodrigues

The Swachh Bharat (SB) movement has Gandhiji as its core. He is the Ambassador of the project. Gandhiji was as much a doer as a thinker. If we are to sincerely celebrate his life and honour his memory, then especially in executing the SB movement our actions must speak louder than our words.

Let’s look closely at 3 stakeholders who play a critical role in the implementation of the Swachh Bharat programme – Government, Industry and the Aam Aadmi. What should each group do so as towalk in Bapuji’s footsteps and bring us to our goal of a Swachh Bharat?


Gandhiji believed in symbols. The Dandi March stood for his principals of non-violence and civil disobedience but this was followed up with persistent action and intense execution through multiple approaches.  While the broom and clean up drives have become symbolic of the movement, the path to a Swachh Bharat will need comprehensive and robust action.

For the last twenty years, both the state and the central governments have introduced comprehensive waste management rules. If there is one reason why waste has become a serious threat to our well- being, it is because our regulations are just not enforced. This is the time then that the government needs to lead from the front and put out stringent measures and plans to enforce its own laws and regulations.

There cannot be talk anymore of mafia-like elements ruling the waste sector. There cannot be compromises and apologies for absence of waste segregation. Consequences for non-compliance to the rules through government action is mandatory.


Industry is a huge waste generator and as such their role in the Swachh Bharat movement is focussed on post-consumer waste which is generated as part of their business. Industry is now required by law to facilitate and take responsibility for collection and recycling.

Walking in the Mahatmas footsteps for a Swachh Bharat, in reality, would translate into the company’s CEO working with the Head of Sustainability or someone similar in the company to review audited statements on how much waste the company has put out in the form of packaging. The Head of Sustainability would be accountable to a collection and recycling programme in line with environment and labour laws. Likewise, they would also drive innovation to the point where new business models would reduce packaging and encourage reuse.

Aam Aadmi

In a democracy every citizen of this country is first an Aam Aadmi.

Walking in the footsteps of the Mahatma, the common man cannot afford to let go. They have to pull out all the weapons used so effectively by the Mahatma. Come out on the streets when required to insist that government enforces its own legislation and industry takes responsibility for waste created through its own business.

More importantly, the Aam Aadmi must be the change they want to see on the ground. So yes, they will refuse single use products, abandon e-commerce companies who use excessive packaging, choose only those food aggregators who give us an option of reusable food containers and comply with all the waste regulations including waste segregation at source and recycling.

Nelson Mandela, an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi believed that when the head and the heart work together a formidable force is created.  Imagine if 3 critical stakeholders worked with their head and heart – this formidable force would surely deliver a Swachh Bharat.

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