Cleanliness is next to Godliness (Dr A.Sreekumar Menon)

Published on 26 October, 2014
Cleanliness is next to Godliness (Dr A.Sreekumar Menon)
Shri Narendra Damodar Modi  our new and dynamic Prime Minister who is called  as 'Vikas Purush' 'Man after development'   launched a national campaign called 'Swachh  Bharath' meaning ' clean India' in Hindi language,  to make our country clean  within another four years  when we would be celebrating  150 birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi  who gave top priority to cleanliness . Although  this is not the first time  cleanliness drive at the national level  is announced and that under UPA Government similar programme called 'Nirmal Bharath' was announced, the difference between the two  is  the seriousness with which  the current programme is launched  with a dead line . Narendraji    known for his firm determination and commitment and a man of action, which he amply displayed while being chief Minister of Gujarat might succeed in his campaign at least to a perceptible degree.

He said in a light vein 'we need cleanliness more than wifi .He also emphasized time and again that cleaning is not limited to safai karmacharis / purakarmikas/ sanitary workers, but it extends to citizens of the country as a whole.  He inaugurated the programme by taking broomstick himself and cleaning Raj path, on Oct, 2nd, 146 th year of celebration of Mahathmaji's birth day upholding dignity of labor and following  ideals of   Gandhiji. He also roped in many celebrities like Cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, Tennis star Sania Mirza, Superstar Sharukh Khan and others to spread the message and awareness of cleanliness.  The present  author in his Articles on Gandhism and GandhiJayanti celebration has pointed out that the  best way to pay tribute to him is by implementing the programme, he was  working on-  one being cleanliness  programme .  Gandhiji cleaned even public latrines .Environmental cleanliness contributes to the health of the people, apart from the contribution of nutritious food and physical exercise. It is also a sign of progress, development of the community and quality of life style. Modern man pollutes  all the three  Viz  soil, water and air in the name of  progress and economic development .

Apart from bio-waste, other forms of pollution such as e-waste, Radioactive  waves  ,use of chemicals and pesticides, jet fuel , Radioactive wastes from Atomic plants etc pose grave danger to the future of human existence , unless we   dispose them safely . One clear  aftermath  of pollution, we find today is global warming which if not prevented can make the land submerge under water .Unlimited  and wasteful   use of  fossil fuels which is show off opulence  adds to the problem of environmental pollution .The natural eco- systems are polluted beyond limits . We know about pollution of Ganges and other major rivers. It is reported that Western Ghats where there are Silent valley forests and   Western range of forests where Sabarimala temple is located, both plant life and animal life are reported to be deleteriously affected by activities of man.   Lakhs of pilgrims who visit Sabarimala every year pollute the eco-system to dangerous levels  Similarly in the  north during Kumbhamela festival,  lot of garbage is left behind .It is certainly not the way of showing devotion or bakthi to God.  To arrest such environmental deterioration is the need of the day. Although integrated area development plan is   being implemented, it has hardly proved effective.  In Sabarimala recently a novel method was started to keep the surroundings clean. Each devotee, who generates waste/ garbage, should carry it with them when they return home to deposit it in their compound, which would form manure for plants. It is projected as part of the ritual .As the garbage is generated while in Sabarimala, it is considered as valuable  to be put to proper use .It  is a novel way of using Religious sentiments for human welfare .There will also be ready acceptance of the practice by the devotees .

Thus it a novel way  of  checking accumulation of garbage and filth from Sabarimala  , of  checking pollution of Periyar River to protect Periyar Wild life sanctuary and eco-system .

  Our Epics talk of taking care of all living and non-living beings, as all are considered expressions of divinity. It is said that Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity visit only those houses during Deepavali festivities which are kept neat and clean. Before the day of Deepavali celebration, there is a practice of removing dirt from the houses, sweep and keep clean and tidy. The buildings are also white washed and painted to give a new look. So Deepavali reminds us the importance of cleanliness. It will be desirable, if this sense of cleanliness that we are reminded off during Deepavali   stays with us t always, as part of our country. It is meant to be like that. But we don't go by  its wider meaning . We are short sighted as far as the spirit of this celebration is concerned .Of late we hardly seem to be aware of this value or it could be that due to avariciousness,   we assign least priority to environmental protection or preservation and nurturance.  We seem to be deeply engrossed in other activities, which are supposed to bring us joy , we forget the basic need of cleanliness and hygiene . Short term gains take precedence over long term survival. Modern man running after the so-called luxuries of life like moth  going to court with the flame, will have to pay heavy price, if the problem is ignored conveniently .

Extreme poverty leads to unclean environment. In our country, large section of people defecates or attends to nature's call in open places for want of private toilets. According to the Report of Human Resources Ministry of Government of India, out of 10, 65056 schools only in 891455 schools, there are separate toilets for girls. In others, girls should share toilets with boys. Those schools include those running higher classes. This is one of the reasons pointed out for drop in enrolment of girls .Government of India under Modi's initiative have allotted funds for construction of separate toilets for girls.

The toilets existing in schools, colleges, Government Departments, hospitals, and public places like Bus stands , Railway stations  and so on are poorly maintained . They are dirty and stinking. Once a person who uses the toilet leaves it after use, another place will have revulsion to go inside. The sanitary workers   do not clean toilets properly. They shirk their work. Only if the workers and the users co-operate, toilets can be kept clean. The condition of 'pay and use' toilets is not very different. The institutions should also give utmost priority to cleanliness. Keeping dustbins for wet and dry waste in different places just by itself will not help to keep the place neat, clean, tidy and hygienic. The institution should implement cleanliness programme right earnest. All the users should be insisted to follow habits of cleanliness and violators should be punished. In Institutions, it can be implemented easily, though in public places, it is not that easy. We found Prime Minister Modi calling the meeting of top level officers such as secretaries and telling them that it is their duty to see the secretariat buildings where they work   are kept clean. In other countries like U.S, Japan, Singapore and so on heavy punishment is levied for littering. We find not only uneducated and poor people lack habits of cleanliness, but even the so-called educated and middle class people who lack practice of cleanliness. This shows that it is not the economic status that predominantly determines sense of cleanliness, but lack of values and mindset that matter. A thorough reorientation towards environmental cleanliness is to be brought out by ongoing campaign, education and publicity.

Cleanliness is at its low ebb where ever we survey in our country  whether it is in temples, hospitals, houses, schools, offices, Restaurents, beaches, public roads, parks, bus and Railway stations, sometimes even in Airports. Where ever large number of people congregates, that place is kept dirty. After celebration of festivals, the places where   functions are held are left   filthy and it takes much time to clean up . Mostly it is left dirty, without any attempt to clean up . Most of the cities in India are cities of dirt and squalor. Kerala which was once known for cleanliness is now known for dirt and filth .It seems that sense of cleanliness has deteriorated over years due to onslaught of rank materialism. In traditional living, cleanliness was an integral part and parcel of life. It was never a problem. It never needed any special focus or campaigns. It appears it is unintended dark side of industrial life, which calls conscious attempts and deliberate plans to promote cleanliness.

We cannot make our  country clean, unless we  attempt to keep clean our homes, neighborhood, schools and colleges, offices, hospitals and other places where  we use . Keeping cleanliness should be made as everybody's business. It should not be the job of sanitary workers alone The position with which cleaning up activity is held today should be elevated. In fact making every one responsible for cleaning up and not allocating the work to sanitary workers are perhaps the best options .In houses, all the members should clean themselves their houses and their premises rather than engaging servants even if they are affluent. Children too should be involved in the task of house cleaning, so that they develop the habit. First of all children should learn not to dirty the place while using the facilities, so that the need for cleaning up will be minimum. In other words, they should be taught to do everything neatly .They should never have the tendency to litter in any place.

Personal hygiene is precursor of environmental hygiene. All should maintain personal hygiene. Not much expenditure is involved in maintaining personal hygiene. Use of makeup items which are available in plenty now is not necessary to keep oneself clean and maintain proper personal appearance.  Clean clothes rather than soiled clothes should be used .Hair should be kept well groomed and hygienic. Beard should be groomed, cleaned and kept hygienic. Shoes / chapels, one wears should be cleaned up occasionally rather than allowing dirt to accumulate. Socks also should be washed and dried frequently and kept neat to avoid bad odor and to keep hygienic .Modern youths hardly pay attention to those fundamentals of cleanliness. Schools and colleges should insist on them to follow such practices of personal hygiene. They should also  insist them to keep their hostel rooms  neat and tidy, that is putting things in their respective places .If we go in a hostel room we find the sight  awful. We can find several pairs of shoes / chapels are strewn around, beds are in disarray, books and dresses are thrown around and ground with littering of papers, making mess of things. .The environment thus presented is not conducive for being serious in their studies even for students who are serious in their studies. Another place which students should be insisted to keep clean is dining halls of Mess attached to schools and colleges.  Students should not spill food stuffs in their plates, while dinning. They should not spill water around while using wash basins. In many cases, when buffet system or  self-serving system is introduced. In such cases, students should be taught to take only just the required quantity of food , and not throw away any food . The Institutions should also receive feedback from the students periodically whether they like the food served  and should  be flexible to incorporate the changes  given by majority of students . When  the food is of their liking, they would take only the required  quantity and hence  chances of wasting and throwing away the food, which  causes wastage  as well as making the environment unsanitary  are minimum .Of ten Institutions  remain immune to the reactions  of the students due to their bureaucratic set up .

 Another place where lot of dirt and filth accumulate is the kitchen, especially in Departmental Cantees, cafeterias and Hotels The institutions should insist on Cooks that they should handle and cook food, without unnecessary dirtying the place. Once the place is dirtied, cleaning is not so easy. Again kitchen should be washed frequently. Indian way of mass cooking generates lot of dirt. I have seen in Australia mass cooking in a college kitchen hardly leaving dirt. The reason is that Indian cooks lack sense of cleanliness as much as foreign cooks have. Indian cooks should be made to undergo training in aspects of maintaining cleanliness in the kitchen work. There is no proper drainage system is constructed  both in villages and cities .In most places, the drainage system is kept open  and people throw all kinds of  solid wastes into it, with the result it gets clogged . Many times the sewage overflows the manholes into the roads making roads absolutely dirty .  Sewage even gets into pipes carrying portable water contaminating   drinking water. The waste disposal systems working in Municipalities and Corporations are in deplorable conditions. The local bodies need to pay much more importance to waste disposal than given now in almost all cities in our country.

Having said so much about cleanliness practices of people in our country, let me give idea of similar practices followed in Japan, which also has eastern culture .  Japanese children clean their schools along with teachers. They spent first half an hour devoting to maintaining sanitization in the school environment. This has other salutary effects other than making keeping environment clean as every one's responsibility. It develops   to eschew white collar orientation and develop dignity of labour. It  cautions them to do what ever they do rather cleanly  such that  there will not be much to clean it up .They , compared to hired labor do it with sincerity and enjoy doing the task collectively, which develops  team spirit and tendency to undertake cooperative enterprise and sense of interdependency rather than rank selfishness and callousness . It helps to develop character and tendency for self-reliance rather than on excessive dependence on outside help.. Knowledge and skills  divorced of character spell disaster as in the case of our Epic character Ravana and other demons  depicted in the story of Ramayana .In such case knowledge  will be used for harmful purposes rather than for the welfare of the community .

In our institutions such as  schools , colleges and public offices, it is perhaps worthwhile to introduce  such self-help  cleaning  and other services  such  working in the dining hall , planting trees in the compound etc .It will also help to develop practical  as opposed to  mere theory orientation , which we notice in the present day educational system, which is  quoted as a malady . In other words , students would try to apply whatever  knowledge  they learned in the class rooms    in solving practical problems facing the society. Let me present in Japan.

Sanitary workers in Japan are called as 'Health Engineers', a term of high social prestige and  high salaries  to the tune of 5000 to 8000 US4 are offered . It is not anyone who can get into sanitary jobs. Special tests   to identify aptitude, motivation and interest are conducted and only suitable candidates are selected and given proper training.  I found both in USA and in Australia, sanitary work is not considered as unskilled and menial; job. In the university of Michigan Medical College, I found that sanitary work is done even by those who do their post-graduation in Medical disciplines .The working of waste disposal system there very efficient..

Hygiene and eagerness to address cleanliness is a part of Japanese ethics . Japanese students have to learn ethics in dealing with people from first to six primary years. Even all fluent Japanese families do not t hire domestic help. Parents are responsible  for upkeep of the house and children .. No examinations are conducted from first to third standard, the reason being that they believe that the goal of early education is to help the child to develop his intellectual abilities, explore the environment and building their temperamental and moral development of their personalities   and not examinations and indoctrination. In Japan people are very time conscious and good at management of time. The rate of delayed train is reported to be about 7 seconds per year. Children take half and hour for dinning leisurely, w concentrating on eating and not diverting their mind for gossiping   for good digestion and brush their teeth after the meals in the schools. Thus we find many salutary hygienic practices built into life styles of Japanese from early childhood, as foundations for wholesome adult  life .

Outer cleanliness should be a stepping stone for inner cleanliness. Outer cleanliness , as we all know helps to prevent many diseases of  our body and enable us to enjoy good health .Apart from this there are two aspects of inner cleanliness or purity viz 1 .maintaining  a healthy digestive and excretory system , and 2. Maintaining purity of mind. We should take special care in our food habits to maintain a healthy digestive and excretory system. Both those systems are highly complex and they do tremendous job of digestion, assimilation of nutrients, conversion of nutrients into energy blocks and dispelling the waste through excretion . Apart from genetic propensity, we should moderate our eating habits such that our Digestive -Excretory system is able to handle the function properly. First of all we should consume just the right quantity and quality of food which would give us the just required calories. Eating should not be for the pleasure of eating depending upon availability of food, but should be based on the need of our bodies. Secondly we should not cater too much to our palate or taste, on the other hand, we should enjoy food of a particular taste that is healthy. It means that food should be bland rather than spicy and oily or containing excess sugar. All those three items, if excess are harmful to the body. They may cause cardiovascular diseases, metabolic disease like Diabetes and so on. Foods containing synthetic or chemical ingredients should be avoided, as they could contain carcinomic ingredients. Semi-cooked and uncooked items such as fruits and vegetables which contain vitamins essential for cell grouth and function and dietary fiber helpful in the digestive process should form major part of daily diet .Our body contains 75 percent of liquids in the form of blood, marrow etc. water gets lost due to weather conditions. It is also required for other bodily processes such as digestion and exertion. So lot of pure water should be taken both for the digestive process and for maintaining constant body temperature .Generally we drink water only when we are thirsty. It should not be the case. Water should be taken periodically. Our ancestors knew the importance of water for our body. They use to greet a visitor with a glass of water. A jug of water is always kept along the side of the food, being served .

It is better to avoid artificial/ aerated drinks available in plenty today ,  because they might contain certain harmful  chemical ingredients, which might  harm the body, when taken excessively . Certain soft drinks if taken in excess are found to weaken the skeletal system .Fresh juice of fruits   could be taken in plenty for its salutary effects.

 In cities to meet shortage of water, Sewage Treatment Plants are installed to filter out contaminants and recycle water for watering plans and to maintain gardens. Often those Recycling plants are not maintained properly. The sewerage water  does not get  purified  well by removing bio-waste such as  effluents from toilets , with the result, when plants are watered, it gives out bad smell in the atmosphere .The flowering plants and the grass in the lawns also give out  bad smell polluting the atmosphere . We often use flowers from such plants for personal use and worship .It is also ethical question whether we can water trees and plants with water of such  high pollution.  The place becomes ideal breeding ground for flies, mosquitoes and other harmful insects which spread diseases to both animals and human beings. The waste water from domestic use such as from the kitchen, clothes washing and bathing may be recycled. It is better not to recycle water . From lavatory., as it pollutes the atmosphere . Water from lavatory can be recycled if its use is exclusively for flushing the toilets. In any case, the Sewerage Treatment plants should be maintained absolutely in good working condition. Treatment plants to treat toxic waste such as from the hospitals, which are generated in plenty, should be set up and they should be kept in working condition.

 The standards for emissions from the factories and vehicles should be should be implemented strictly. Limit should be put on the number of new vehicles that can be registered .People should also be enlightened not to use vehicles which runs on fossil fuels unnecessary, which  they do due their affluence  causing atmospheric pollution .Particular attention should be paid in keeping the water bodies away  from pollution by not allowing diversion of effluents into those  and also by checking any act of water pollution .  Water bodies are life lines of the community . We know present Government  has allotted huge sum  for cleaning up of Ganges, the sacred river of Hindus .Prevention  is better than cure in all matters . It is probably due to neglect  over maintaining Ganges clean for a long time, the present gigantic efforts became necessary .It is envisaged  not for Religious reasons, but for the survival of humanity , but to check the catastrophe called 'Global warming '.

Nature as we find has ingenious way of cleaning up. Sun light sanitizes the place. Soiled water purified comes back as rain and rain water passing through layers of soil get filtered and purified. There are animals like crows, dogs, vultures, bacteria and other organisms which clean up the land . Man pollutes earth to such an extent that    nature's cleaning mechanisms are unable to handle   their work. We find in our country taking measures for maintaining cleanliness is of utmost priority and urgency. It can not be neglected any longer .  Realising it, Our Prime Minister has now kicked of the campaign of 'Swachh Bharath'

With a target date to achieve the results .

Achieving purity of mind is the culmination of creation of cleanliness of environment. Outside world with all the living and non-living  beings  constitutes outside world and  minds of people constitute  the inner world . The cleanliness of one supplements the other. Mental purity can be achieved by 1. by rooting out negative thoughts and vices and cultivating in their place positive thoughts and virtues, which lead to positive actions and in turn wholesome life and 2. By helping and not harming anyone.

To  recapitulate, an attempt is made in this article to high light the importance of cleanliness, the extend of problem of cleanliness, we face today and  some of the measures that  should be taken to face this problem  to make earth a clean place to lead a healthy life .


Dr A.Sreekumar Menon (

Cleanliness is next to Godliness (Dr A.Sreekumar Menon)
മലയാളത്തില്‍ ടൈപ്പ് ചെയ്യാന്‍ ഇവിടെ ക്ലിക്ക് ചെയ്യുക