One Broom Doesn’t Fit All Sizes

India has launched this International Non-Violence Day October 2, 2014 a national cleanliness programme. Every who’s who was seen sweeping the chosen surroundings with a broom in hand. Men & women, of all sizes, tall & fat, slim & round were looking anxious to clean all the streets and surroundings of  all the garbage, set an example before the people to emulate and inspire all and sundry to acknowledge the value of cleanliness in life. Bapu held cleanliness next only to God. So when PM Narendra Modi launched the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan on the Gandhi Jayanti Day, everyone seemed suddenly to become alive to the need to follow the Mahatma’s dictum. Though there was no doubt about their sincerity, the discomfort of many VIPs was too obvious. The reason was the broom. In our anxiety for equality, we use brooms of one size only. Critics might see some insensitivity in it but we are of the firm view that one size should do for all. But even I can’t deny the fact that one size really didn’t fit all. So this was the reason for discomfort of our only valuable asset our VIPs. The success of PM Mr. N. Modi lay  in making everyone across party line to pick a broom or jhaadu and get clicked by TV channels. This sight made me think of the practice in other developed countries.

The internet search revealed very interesting facts. In India jhaadu making is a cottage industry, but in England or the United States of America it is a very well developed industry. They too, like us, started with grass & shrub brooms but grew to use bristles as the demand grew to keep pace with industrialization. Now industrial brooms are an established industry, boasting of clever technological inputs and marketing skills. Brooms for common household use etc sell anywhere between Rupees 1000 to 2500 apiece. In comparison the Indian product fetches no more than Rupees 100 to 200 apiece. So here too, we have missed the technological advancement. This piece, indeed, is inspired by this flash of our aversion to bring technological inputs in our day to day life. For making success of the Cleanliness drive, the country will need technological inputs. It is no surprise that the Indian had abandoned public cleanliness several centuries ago. It is religion neutral! People practice the cleverness of throwing all their garbage on to the road or any desolate place without thinking twice of the health hazards such practices create for the neighbourhood residents. The whole responsibility for cleanliness was dumped on only a small section of the populace, who were subjected to double whammy: they were declared untouchable. A section of the populace, making preparation for admission to the Heaven in the next life, maintained cleanliness inside the house but made every public place dirty by every means. Even the highly educated and highly placed men & women of the digital generation do not hesitate to dirty footpaths by the roads for pedestrians to walk by relieving their dogs, whom they love more than people or their rights to clean public footpaths. Unless this mindset changes, our efforts to mount a cleanliness drive will yield little beneficial results. They are likely to cause back pain to the broom wielding VIPs, who are doing so for the first time because the prime minister has imposed his will on them. This has a lesson for us: we should make brooms, handles etc of different sizes to suit different people considering their height, weight, girth etc. Broom wielding should be a good experience rather than a painful one.

Broom has been used metaphorically in almost all world literature. But whether it has found such a prominent place in world politics is not immediately known. This much is certain that in India hardly any election has been fought without the broom finding pride of place as an election in symbol. Though the last to use it is a Delhi based political party, its predecessors are no less glorious individuals. The history of the allotment and use of broom as an election symbol is available with the Election commission of India, but the earlier crusaders against corruption had promised to sweep away corruption from government and politics only to get lost forever. The Delhi based political party is cut up with Narendra Modi for taking away their glorious symbol of the Jhaadu by personally holding one in his hands and sweeping the street. Coupled with his public pronouncement neither to take bribe nor allow anybody else to do so, the Delhi outfit feels the wind having been taken away from its sails by Narendra Modi, depriving them of the election jargon consisting solely of corruption & jhaadu in the forthcoming Assembly election, which can be announced any time.

One gain from the cleanliness drive will be the growth of the broom industry. The sole supplier of brooms in Rajasthan is reported to have expressed his inability to meet the demand for jhaadu since October 2 only because streets that have always depended on the monsoon rains to clean them are getting broom cleaned! Modi creates thousands of jobs just by touching the broom. Eureka!

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