Delhi comes among the top polluted cities in the world. And the responsibility of keeping the capital clean falls largely on municipal sweepers or the ‘safai-karamcharis’, as they are normally called in India.
The NDMC has taken a novel and positive decision of sending a team of 10 sweepers and diggers, to a week-long official trip to South Korea and Japan. They will learn about important cleanliness practices such as sanitation, cleanliness, waste disposal as well as the upkeep of local markets, residential areas and townships. Both the countries are well known for maintaining high standard of cleanliness and hygiene.
It comes as a relief from the previous trend of sending only top level officials to foreign trips. According to an official from the External Affairs Ministry, “We were surprised when we saw the list of group members. I'm seeing such a proposal to send ground-level staff for the first time - otherwise most foreign trips are taken by senior officials”.
According to New Delhi Municipal Council chairman Naresh Kumar, "We took the decision to boost their morale. They must know how cities abroad are maintained by ground-level staff".
The ground level staff is surprised and naturally excited by the decision -"I never dreamt I will have a passport. I could never imagine I would go abroad one day," said one Lalit Kumar, who is part of the delegation.The tour by sweepers comes amid a nationwide campaign for cleanliness and better sanitation launched by the Indian government, under its vibrant Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.