The swacchta message at World Cup

Brig IJ Singh (Retd)

FIFA World Cup is on. A nation gets eliminated in the pre-quarters. Emotional, the team heads to the dressing room. They quickly pack their baggage, clean up the entire area, put every inventory in place and leave with a note: ‘Thank you, Russia’. The team represented Japan.

A nation razed to the ground in the World War II, is today perhaps the most disciplined and clean country, in which there is a prevailing idea that clean is ‘good’. Japan has been obsessed with cleanliness for centuries. Earlier European and Chinese travellers mentioned it in their documents hundred of years ago.

The Japanese give a lot of importance to cleaning oneself and one’s surroundings. The major religion in Japan is Shinto and Shinto God hates filth. Even Buddhism, which has been one of our religions, teaches the Japanese the importance of cleanliness for a peaceful mind. Buddhism spread from India to other countries but does not convey the same message to Indians.

Should there be a clean-up time in our schools, workplaces, religious places, residential areas and public transport areas? Cleanliness in India should not be a personal issue, but a public one.

Japan had a past history of epidemic diseases, infections, food poisoning, natural and manmade disasters and yet it rose together to falcon heights of cleanliness and discipline. We can do it too.

Indians can carry forward the swachhta message of our great nation. A glimpse of the Japanese way is visible in our Cantonments. There is no garbage on roads, living and working areas are spic and span, proper drainage exists, schoolchildren board buses in an orderly manner, rainwater harvesting modes are in place, sign posting and road lighting is near-perfect, and even civilians posted in Army areas are disciplined and friendly towards the environment.

I superannuated in 2003. The uniform which had become my second skin was difficult to shed. I could shed my rank in two years, but could not shed the psyche of a soldier: being in time, being courteous, not violating rules or laws of the land, not jumping queues and keeping my surrounding clean, whether in stationary or moving mode. I could not resist checking people for wrongdoings and everytime I did it, I was told that I must be from the Army, or ‘relax, you are no longer in the Army’.

I wonder if cleanliness and discipline have any connectivity to productivity and the all-round performance of a nation. Today, Japan not only can field world cup teams in almost all disciplines, but also is a leader in automotives, electronics, transportation system, efficient and clean energy, telecom industry, disaster management system. The world looks up to it as a country on the move. As an Army man, I would put my bet on discipline. Indians living abroad conduct themselves in a befitting manner, but when back in India, they start living with chalta hai approach.

The recent opening of some Cantonment roads, even at the cost of being a security hazard to civilian counterparts, may be a blessing in disguise for carrying forward the message of Swachh Bharat. If the Army can do it, why not you?

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