Outdoor installation of Mahatma Gandhi at the Rashtriya Swachhta Kendra at Rajghat in New Delhi | ThePrint Photo | Sravasti Dasgupta
Outdoor installation of Mahatma Gandhi at the Rashtriya Swachhta Kendra at Rajghat in New Delhi | ThePrint Photo | Sravasti Dasgupta
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New Delhi: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Rashtriya Swachhta Kendra at Rajghat, Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat Sunday opened its doors to the public with a short tour of the facility.

Sunday (9 August) also marked the 78th anniversary of the Mahatma Gandhi-led Quit India Movement against British imperialism.

Rashtriya Swachhta Kendra in Delhi | ThePrint Photo | Sravasti Dasgupta

Shekhawat said the facility was a tribute to Gandhi’s efforts for a swachh (clean) India. It will mostly cater to tourists and schoolchildren, to educate them about the Swachh Bharat Mission. Only virtual tours of the facility are allowed for the time being in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat opens Rashtriya Swachhta Kendra to the public | ThePrint Photo | Sravasti Dasgupta

Also read: The ‘thick skinned’ civil engineer behind ‘Dharavi model’ and Mumbai’s footpath challenge

Art installations, auditorium & quiz games

The Rashtriya Swachhta Kendra includes a mix of digital and outdoor installations to showcase various aspects of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

From portrayals showing Gandhi with students, to women or ‘ranimistris’ building toilets and PM Modi’s 2014 address from the ramparts of the Red Fort, outdoor art installations in the facility educate visitors about the mission’s journey.

Newspaper cuttings and digital tribute to Mahatma Gandhi and PM Modi’s cleanliness drive | ThePrint Photo | Sravasti Dasgupta

Inside, there is an auditorium with a 360-degree view with audio-visual presentation detailing the background of the Swachh Bharat Mission. The presentation includes a trip down the lanes of history when Gandhi had laid down the importance of a clean India. It also showcases parts of PM Modi’s 2014 Independence Day speech when he had launched the Swachh Bharat Mission, vowing to make India open defecation free by 2019.

According to the UNICEF, 36 states and union territories, 706 districts and over 603,175 villages have been declared open defecation free as of January 2020. The UNICEF website also says, “500 million people have stopped defecating in the open since 2014, down from 550 million to less than 50 million today.”

The facility’s indoor area is divided into different sections, highlighting both Gandhi and the Modi government’s journey toward a clean India. It includes interactive LED panels, hologram boxes, quizzes and information about the Swachh Bharat Mission.

Importance of ‘Swachhta’ in a pandemic

Jal Shakti Minister Shekhawat told ThePrint that Swachh Bharat Mission has become even more important amid the global pandemic.

“Without the Swachh Bharat Mission, India’s condition in the pandemic would have been horrible. Due to the mission, every individual in the country has access to a toilet. This has allowed us to control faecal sludge and fight the spread of the virus. If the pandemic arrived before 2014, India would be in a terrible situation,” he said.

PM Modi had also said fighting Covid-19 would have been difficult without the Swachh Bharat Mission.

“Imagine what would have happened had a pandemic like coronavirus broken out before 2014. Given the lack of toilets (in houses across rural India), could we have stopped the spread of the virus? Could we have imposed lockdown in a situation where over 60% population was forced to open defecation?” Modi asked.

The Rashtriya Swachhta Kendra has been built in the last five months at a cost of around Rs 5 crore. It will be a part of schoolchildren’s guided tours to the Rajghat. Entry will be free for children.

“Instead of tickets, adults will have to give ‘donations’ that range from Rs 5 to 150 to enter the facility,” said Shekhawat. The minister will offer the first virtual tour on 13 August.

Also read: Study finds Indian households with female children reduce practice of open defecation


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