New Delhi: 31-year-old Azad Pandey from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh celebrated Christmas with a difference this year. Dressed as Santa Claus, with a long white beard and a Santa cap, the swachh warrior rode a wooden cart with eight different bins having eight messages, promoting the cleanliness campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
Speaking to NDTV about the initiative, Azad Pandey who runs Smile Roti Bank in the city says,
India is a religious country and believe it or not, people put religion over laws and regulations. Coming to the festival of Christmas, Santa Claus is dear to Children. So I decided to combine the two and put forward the message of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in a quirky way and reach out directly to children. To put ideas into action, I borrowed a cart (my kind of sleigh) and eight garbage bins from Municipal Corporation and pasted handwritten messages on those bins.
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From 4 in the evening till 8 in the night, Azad rode the cart in posh areas of the city. To make sure people take home the message of clean India, Gorakhpur’s own Santa Claus got posters printed saying, “Santa’s message, keep your country clean” and distributed it among passersby.
We even asked individuals to take a selfie with the placard and upload it on social media. This way their followers will also get to know about the campaign. We distributed around 1,200 placards and let’s assume 1,000 individuals took a selfie with it. Now imagine the number of people looking at those pictures and at least giving a thought to cleanliness, says Azad.
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While riding in the city, Azad noticed that it is not just the uneducated who lack awareness, those with education too add to the mess. For instance, at Indira Tiraha, a locality in the city, people come with their family to spend some leisure time and enjoy. While picnicking they discard empty packets of biscuits, chips, and other food items out in the open.
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Yesterday, when picnickers saw me and volunteers picking up their waste, they got conscious and joined us. People need to understand and be accountable for the waste they create, says Azad.
This is not the first time Azad did something to promote cleanliness. Last year on Christmas, Santa’s disguise stood on a dustbin in Golghar market in the city and talked about cleanliness. He along with volunteers picked up garbage lying around dustbin and made sure everyone uses dustbin, at least for a day.
Azad plans to come up with more such ideas to promote cleanliness campaign in the city and make Gorakhpur Swachh literally.
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NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.