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India’s Real Heroes: Meet Modi’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ hero

By Newsd
Updated on :

Every day Malkhan Singh, 53, cleans the Munirka village sector 53 municipality dump yard. He has been cleaning the area for the past 22 years and earns Rs 1000 monthly for his day’s hard work. Singh works for a private contractor called Satveer Singh and his work includes keeping the entire area clean.

I first saw him smoking a ‘bidi’ while he waited for the municipality truck to take all the junk accumulated in the dump yard. I could see flies sitting on his hands and feet. His dishevelled appearance and calm composure among the crowd passing the dump yard with their noses covered intrigued me. Of course, you cannot stand near that place without covering your nose because of the sludge. But this man sat there patiently waiting to dispose the junk and clean the yard.

Malkhan Singh was neither wearing cleaning gloves nor gum boots to save his feet from getting dirty in the muck. Singh is from a small village called Kanthi Ki Nagraiya near Iglas, Aligarh district in Uttar Pradesh. He lives with his family, a wife and a daughter on the other side of Munirka village. He wore a vest and a tattered pant folded up to his knees.

He had no equipment except a broom to clean the garbage. Singh picks the garbage with pieces of carton. Without being provided a mask, gloves and gum boots he toils everyday in the dump yard of toxic waste. Of course, we cannot expect him to be provided with painkillers and anti-infection medicines in case he feels nauseous.

He is the real hero of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan which was launched in October 2014.

It has been almost two years but still the aim to achieve total sanitation by 2019 seems impossible.

A few months ago several sanitation worker unions went on strike demanding regular payments, arrears, regularisation of contract-based workers and cashless health cards. Are they asking for too much? No, simply basic amenities for a healthy work environment.

Recently, the government allocated ₹90 billion ($1.3 billion) for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan in the 2016 Union Budget. Does it only include making toilets? The PM’s initiative must look at the plight of these sanitation workers, the real heroes of India’s nation building.