Narendra Modi’s going for his second clean sweep of the year

Clean and clear.
Clean and clear.
Image: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
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Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s ambitions to clean and spruce up the subcontinent is relying on a tried and tested model—the ALS ice bucket challenge, which raised more than $100 million.

Modi’s intention is to not to make his Swatchh Bharat mission—that aims to ‘Clean India’ in the next five years—a government led and implemented programme. Instead, as he’s stated in speeches recently, the prime minister wants to transform it into a mass movement. “The work is to be done by all Indians. This campaign is for 1.2 billion people and I repeat it 1.2 billion times,” he said today at the launch of the mission.

But to get it off the ground, the government has devised a social media-focused campaign, which seeks to leverage the social media clout of the prime minister as well as that of a small band of celebrities and politicians, some with large followings on Twitter and Facebook. The official ‘Swatchh Bharat’ challenge can be found here.

Modi’s initial nine include author and Goa governor Mridula Sinha, former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, yoga guru Ramdev, industrialist Anil Ambani and actors Kamal Haasan, Priyanka Chopra and Salman Khan. The team of ‘Tarak Mehta Ka Oolta Chashma’, a sitcom, have also been invited.

Over 600 million people in India, or about 53 percent of Indian households, defecate in the open, without using a toilet or latrine, according to the World Bank (pdf), leading to high infant and child mortality. Inadequate sanitation alone costs the country over $54 billion—the entire GDP for Croatia—every year.

“If you see dirt anywhere, take a picture and upload in social media. Then take a video of you cleaning it and then upload the photo of the clean spot,” Modi instructed, adding that the eventual expectation was that individual citizens and government institutions spend 100 hours on cleanliness each year.

It may be far too early to assess whether Modi’s ambitious plan will work, nonetheless get ready to have your social media feeds inundated with ‘Clean India’ videos, particularly if Facebook’s Mark Zuckerburg, who is visiting this month, actually ends up backing the campaign.