NEW DELHI (AP) – India’s prime minister joined millions of schoolchildren, officials and ordinary people who picked up brooms and dustpans Thursday in a countrywide campaign to clean parks, public buildings and streets.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept the road in a poor neighbourhood in New Delhi while launching the Clean India Campaign. Elsewhere in state capitals and small towns, lawmakers, school principals, factory workers and millions of common folk swept and cleared garbage, and cleaned ditches and parks.
Modi chose the birth anniversary of independence leader Mohandas K Gandhi to launch the five-year drive to clean public spaces in a bid to change India’s image as one of the filthiest countries in the world.
Modi, who has made cleanliness and hygiene a major plank of his speeches since taking office in May, led thousands of New Delhi residents on a walk through newly cleaned roads in the heart of the city.
“We can’t let India remain unclean any longer,” Modi said in a public appeal earlier this week.
The campaign was preceded by a media blitz exhorting Indians to take a pledge to tidy up their homes and offices. Newspapers carried advertisements while television channels broadcast messages to create awareness about the sanitation and hygiene campaign.
Although Oct 2 is usually a public holiday, Modi ordered officials in India’s massive bureaucracy and schoolchildren from all the city schools to turn up and take the pledge to clean their offices, school premises and streets.
The impact was evident, with people across the country coming out in droves, armed with trash cans, rakes and brooms to take part.
Cabinet ministers, police and industry leaders have been clearing files and getting rid of clutter in their offices.
“If we can all come together and make this a people’s movement, then I think that we can have our name among the cleanest cities and countries of the world,” Modi told schoolchildren and officials while launching the mission.