New Delhi: To mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year and with just one year to go for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan goal of making India open defecation free (ODF) by his 150th birth anniversary on October 2, 2019, 50-year-old Sangeetha Sridhar, has decided to do something extraordinary. Sangeetha who has been born and brought up in Coimbatore but has been living in Abu Dhabi for almost two decades chose to go on a six-month Clean India trail solo, covering around 350 cities in 29 states and 5 union territories. The aim of the journey is to review the progress of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, public toilets and other swachh facilities in the country. Moreover, through her journey, she aims to spread the clean India message and help change the mindset of people related to about cleanliness.
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Sangeetha’s Focus On Clean India Trail
Talking to NDTV about this unique initiative and the reason why she thought of undertaking the journey, Sangeetha said,
Being an NRI, I have always hoped and dreamt of an India, which is free from waste and is safe enough for a single woman’s journey. By the time I wrap up this journey, I will know the conditions of the public toilets, roads and how far are we from fulfilling Gandhi’s dream of a clean India. The second reason why I will start this initiative is my father, he once asked me, ‘You have been born and brought up in India, studied here, you are doing well in Abu Dhabi now, but what have you done for your own country – India? Soon after, he passed away, but this question jolted me.
On August 12, Sangeetha will begin her ‘Clean India trail’ from the Gateway of India in Mumbai with an aim to stay in over 150 cities of India and cover around 350 cities before coming full circle in February.
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Sharing more details about the purpose of her journey and the things included, Sangeetha said,
This journey will be like a first-hand citizen inspection of actual progress made by clean India, I will be collecting a lot of photographs, videos, interviews of people I meet, I will review sanitation facilities on highways, cities, heritage sites, it will give us a clear picture and tell us the real status. I will also speak with citizens on my way to guide them about Swachh Bharat Mission and why it is important. My journey’s account will be updated on a regular basis on my site, which I have put up especially for this initiative. Moreover, after this journey, I plan to publish a book, both on digital and print platforms, to highlight my experience of a solo trip in India.
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‘My Drive Is My Message’: Sangeetha Sridhar on Her Clean India Trail
Sangeetha will be using a modified Tata Hexa for her drive which she will be driving for 300 kilometres daily before taking a halt. Sangeetha doesn’t intend to make this trip luxurious, so she has decided to stay and live in her car only. Talking about what has been included in her car, Sangeetha adds,
As I will be travelling, sleeping in my car for the next six months, my car had to be modified into a small house. The two rows of seats in the back are totally removed, it has been reclaimed by old wooden planks, damaged plastic containers to build a following – a pantry kitchen area, a bed space, storage facilities for my books and my personal wardrobe. There is also a sink in my car because having clean hands is essential to stay healthy.
Sangeetha asserts that her first mission when she enters a particular city will be to find a safe spot where she and her car can get parked for the night. Afterwards, she will coordinate with swachhagrahis from the particular city and plan out for daily events in which she will be guiding people on some important aspect of a Swachh India such as how they can reduce their carbon footprint, how everyone can do their bit by keeping their surroundings clean, how they can recycle waste effectively.
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Getting People To Support Her Campaign
Sangeetha’s journey is being supported by FICCI Ladies Organisation, Tourism Ministry of India and by India’s ambassador to UAE Navdeep Suri. As of now, this is an entirely self-funded trip. But Sangeetha is open for sponsorships because this will help her to cover up the fuel and travel insurance cost. Currently, Sangeetha will be spending anything between Rs 7-8 lakh on this solo-trip.
The warrior signs off by saying,
Clean India is our birth right and responsibility, if we want a clean country, we all have to do our bit for it. Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘My life is a message’, I will say, ‘my drive is my message’. My appeal to everyone out there will be to take up one green activity and continue to do it for their lifetime. These small steps only will help India meet its goal of a clean country by 2019.
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