Monday, 5 June 2017

Ownership blip in the Swachh Bharat dream: Martyred without glory


June 5: World Environment Day Vs the Swachh Bharat dream


 This World Environment Day, let us applaud Ravinder Kumar’s matrydom and seek the strongest of punishment for the prime accused and his misguided aides.
I wonder how we are different, really. Ravinder Kumar in one unfortunate moment believed. Believed he could ‘be the change’, the change that can better, the nation he perhaps loved. So often we, the better educated have cringed, scrunched up our collective noses, and walked on. When the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was stamped upon the nation on October 2, 2014, leaders jostled each other for headline space – outshining each other to show how committed they were. In addition, everyone, from the media to myriad bigwigs aired their pledge to the cause with √©lan. It had the commoners believe that by 2019 India indeed would suddenly turn open-defecation free. Yes, Ravinder Kumar believed.

Ravinder Kumar did not belong to the army, he was not a politician, nor was he a bureaucrat. He was a nobody. The incident took place at 8:30 pm on May 27, 2017, when the 32 year old e-rickshaw driver objected to two persons urinating publicly near the GTB Metro Station, New Delhi, indicating that they use the nearby public toilet – just a stone’s throw away. The request soon turned into an argument with the infuriated men threatening him with dire consequences. Soon they came back with 15-20 men, beat up Ravinder Kumar, fled, leaving the young victim to succumb to his injuries. End of story.   

 Colour Coded Bins for India from

Newspapers printed the incident, social media reacted about the lack of human empathy in its sporadic way, and stalwart politicians at the helm from Prime Minister Modi to Venkaiah Naidu routinely condemned the incident and threw in promises to book the criminals and offered a few lakhs in compensation to soften the blow for his pregnant wife. 

But, the projected cost of INR 1.96 lakh crore for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan may just as well be a waste if civil society stops believing in it. 12 million toilets or otherwise, we still would be a stinking nation full of brats who think it is fine to beat up and kill a poor man who stood up to do something for his nation.

While I congratulate Aasheesh Sharma, Deputy Editor, Hindustan Times for taking up the cause, I urge civil society to demand for a greater visibility of Ravinder Kumar’s sacrifice. A life dedicated to the nation should not be dismissed so easily.

We are celebrating World Environment Day on June 5 – faceless and nameless festivities from various quarters are going to mark the event.

Is there no relationship between caring for the environment and the Swachh Bharat dream? Isn’t cleanliness intrinsic to nature? I believe that Ravinder Kumar should become the face of a movement that seeks public participation at the core. The outrage should be fuelled and propelled by all of us by demanding the fastest and most public punishment for those accused – to make sure that no one comes in the way of a common man and his nation.

Celebrating World Environment Day by connecting with nature and cleaning up our collective act.