Here we feature the real-life Swachhta Heroes from the world of Bollywood and beyond. Following the footsteps of Hollywood stars, and responding to their own hearts’ calls, Bollywood celebrities are making their own special efforts for the earth and humans
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Indian Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is a perfect example of how one can make every individual effort count. The Indian filmmaker has been focusing on creating movies charged with socially relevant themes including sanitation and cleanliness. Mehra’s film – Mere Pyare Prime Minister – revolves around four kids living in a Mumbai slum, one of whom wants to build a toilet for his single mother and makes an appeal to the Prime Minister. But while making films about social issues spreading awareness, much remains to be done. Mehra believes in putting his ideas into action. So he took it upon himself to build over 800 toilets in the slum that he’s been shooting the film at for the past four years. Not only is he revamping the slums by building toilets, he’s also making sure they are maintained well. “We’ve been having meetings with slum-dwellers and corporators of the area, urging them to put Rs. 1 in the donation box so that the community workers can be given their dues,” he told the media. He states that Gandhi’s model toilets at the Sabarmati Ashram inspired him. The biggest hurdle in his way was the authorisation of Mumbai slums, as they are built on unauthorised plots of land owned by BMC and don’t have pipelines or water connections. He began filming in a slum in Ghatkopar after which the BMC gave him an NOC to build 20 toilets there, including five separate toilets for men and women, and also teachers in two municipal schools in the Khandooba area. The project worked in collaboration with NGO, Yuva Unstoppable.
“The slum dwellers have TV sets and mobile phones but no toilets and during the monsoons are forced to defecate on the railway tracks. I remember reading a Mirror story about a woman who got run over while defecating on the tracks and wondered, `Is a toilet worth losing your life over?” Mehra asked in an interview
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra has now moved shooting to a slum settlement behind the Powai Lake, where the men have been going near secluded pipelines to defecate.
“The area gets water for just 30-45 minutes a day. We are planning to build adequate toilets in this area too,“ he says, admitting that while the Maximum City has been absorbing immigrants like a sponge, its infrastructure hasn’t grown at the same pace. Mehra has working tirelessly to help improve the sanitary conditions in the city’s slums.
The biggest hurdle Mehra faces is that the city’s slums are built on unauthorized land owned by the BMC so he cannot legally build a toilet as there are no pipelines or water connections available. “But I am working on it at the community level, “assures the director who plans to introduce a social card next, whereby anyone, in particular housewives, can give two hours of social work a day to the community. These hours will add up to an accomplishment.
India’s legendary ‘Big B’ has joined the ranks of celebrities going out of their way to contribute to the country’s cleanliness efforts. He has proved that he’s not just a legend in Bollywood but also a legend in social work and community service. The famed Bollywood actor was nominated as the ‘Face of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and rightly so. His charisma accompanied by the zeal to spread awareness on the issues of sanitation and cleanliness has made waves in the country. From appearing in government sponsored TV ad movies on Swachh Bharat and Open Defecation to actually going down to the streets of Mumbai armed with a broomstick, this actor definitely deserves acknowledgment and recognition for his contributions to the cause.
During the NDTV-Banega Swachh India Cleanathon which marked the Rashtriya Swachhta Divas on October 2, Bachchan urged citizens of India to make wise choices and stop using plastic immediately; he added “Today, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, there is not even one inch place where humans have not gone. But, the irony is that, with us plastic, air and garbage pollution has also reached to different places. We use plastic only for few hours or days, and, then we end up throwing it, just that plastic takes 1000 of years to degrade itself completely. Today, that plastic is causing huge environmental problems – it is killing our earth, rivers, marine life, mountains and forest. In short it is killing our precious environment that we have got in heritage”
The 75-year-old actor also got personally involved in the Versova cleanup drive with Afroz Shah, in a bid to raise awareness on how plastic is choking the planet. The actor also showed his support towards the cause by gifting the beach warrior 2 machines that will further fasten the cleanup process at the beach.
On the issue of open defecation in the country the actor said : “Open defecation is a call for various diseases, and, our children can die because of it,”
Amitabh Bachchan as he appealed to the citizens of India to eliminate open defecation ahead of World Toilet Day through a video message. He said, “Every year, I ask people to construct or use toilet. This time, I have a special and an important appeal. If you know someone who practises open defecation, go and speak with them. You have to educate them on why they need a toilet at home and how open defecation can kill them and their loved ones.”
One simply cannot overlook this famed bollywood actor’s contribution to the Swachhta mission. Going above and beyond the call, Salman Khan has been actively engaged with communities in Maharashtra to help them rebuild household and community toilets. Salman Khan has not only helped communities with toilets but also with water supply. This just goes to show how India’s citizens are willing to contribute to the PM’s clarion call for swachhta in their own ways.
We are trying to get permissions to build toilets if they have space for these,” says Salman Khan. The Bollywood action hero has rebuilt more than 3,000 toilets in the Aarey colony, Mumbai. Last year, the actor was appointed as the brand ambassador for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) campaign; that aims to remove the problems of open defecation in the city. Salman Khan had earlier donated five mobile toilets with six seats each to the BMC and had urged the colony people to stop defecating in the open. During his second visit to the colony, Khan promised to build more toilets and repair the existing ones
“For the rest of the houses, we will try to get permissions to build toilets if they have space for it. It feels good to do something for the cause but this is just the beginning. I think there are more than 3,000 houses here and six to eight people live in each of these houses. Also, some of these houses had toilets. We just rebuilt them and gave them water connections.”
This initiative has been taken in collaboration with the BMC that had listed 118 locations across the Mumbai city where people still practice the open dedication system. Although, almost 97 of these areas are now open defecation free but still there remains a huge lacunae since 21 more areas still lack proper toilets. Earlier, BMC had declared 12 out of Mumbai’s 24 wards ODF and chalked out an action plan for other wards.
Earlier, the actor donated five mobile toilets with six seats each to the BMC and had urged citizens to use them instead of defecating in the open. The BMC’s plans include holding thematic drives with the actor and a short video or a radio jingle promoting the cause. “The actor has a huge social media following and an appeal made by him would surely attract attention,” a BMC official said. Khan has requested BMC to build more toilets in the area and also promised to donate more for the cause.
This Bollywood actor’s contribution towards the cause of Swachh Bharat and the ODF mission has been nothing short of extraordinary. Apart from acting and promoting his famed Bollywood blockbuster ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’, the actor has went around the country spreading awareness on open defecation. Akshay Kumar even participated in the foundation building projects for toilets in rural areas. Akshay Kumar is not only SBM brand ambassador for a plethora of states but also a vocal advocate of our peoples’ right to sanitation.
His movie -- Toilet: Ek Prem Katha roared at the box office, crossing the 125-crore mark, lead actor Akshay Kumar said that he never expected to win the numbers game. “I never wanted to focus on the money this film could make, only the awareness it could create,” says Akshay.
Akshay has established himself as an actor who chooses content-driven characters; it’s only a bonus that his films usually cross the 100-crore mark fastest. “With such success, you can’t have complacency. Instead one has a ridiculous amount of responsibility,” he says.
“I believe,” he adds, “that the entertainment industry has the power and influence to make India a better, safer, and more hygienic country to love and live [in]. Just by educating the people sometimes via comedy, you can spread awareness on [critical] issues of today, so they can finally be gone tomorrow.”
On viewer reactions to Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Akshay says, “The best part of our journey has been hearing, reading and receiving all kinds of wonderful information about women taking a strong stand before a marriage proposal can take place. The ‘No Toilet, No Bride’ rule has taken India by storm.” Hopeful that the film will contribute to the rise of a stronger and more determined generation, Akshay says, “It feels good to hear [of] so many women finally having a safer, more comfortable way of living since the film has released, because now they feel their voice and their choice matters.”
Akshay also helped in building a toilet in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh. In sync with the national campaign for toilets in the country, he too, has been promoting toilet building. The actor was accompanied by the Union Minister of Panchayati Raj, Rural Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation, Narendra Singh Tomar. The trio dug pits for building a toilet. The signature toilet model of the Swachh Bharat Mission – The two-pit pour-flush toilet, is an award winning model that has been developed by Dr Bindeshwar PAthak, founder of Sulabh Sanitation and Social Reform Movement. The twin-pit model has been a vital element to the toilet building efforts in the country.
Geeta & Babita
The duo’s names are familiar to the entire nation. The two sisters won gold medals in women’s wrestling in the recent 2010 Commonwealth Games. Their stories were transformed into a movie that graced the theatres this year. The inspirational story of the two sisters from Haryana winning international medals under the watchful eyes of their father Mahavir Singh Phogat, in a sport dominated by men, was celebrated in the recently-released Aamir Khan-starrer Bollywood film ‘Dangal’.
After the success of the movie, the duo received due recognition from the public and the administration and this led them to contributing to the Swachhta efforts by being brand ambassadors for the movement.
In order to promote sanitation and cleanliness in the national capital, South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) roped in wrestlers Geeta and Babita Phogat as brand ambassadors. SDMC had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the two sisters to take its sanitation campaign forward. At a function at the Civic Centre, the two sisters and Additional Commissioner of SDMC GS Meena signed the MoU in the presence of South Delhi Mayor Shyam Sharma, Chairman of SDMC Standing Committee Shailender Singh Monti and Municipal Commissioner PK Goel among others. Speaking on the occasion, Goel expressed gratitude to the two sisters for accepting the SDMC’s proposal to become ‘Swachhta’ brand ambassadors.
“The Phogat sisters have earned accolades in women’s wrestling and have been a source of inspiration for the women of India. They will not only highlight our achievements, but also create awareness on cleanliness.” Goel expressed confidence that with concerted efforts from the SDMC and the two sisters, the corporation will be able to improve its ranking in the ‘Swachhta’ survey. “With the Ho Jaye Do Do Haath campaign, we will be spreading the message of swachhta (cleanliness) in Delhi,” said Babita.
The two have been a tremendous inspiration to young women in the country and are already considered youth icons. They will definitely be able to connnect with the youth and inspire the ideals of cleanliness and proper sanitation. The two sisters will also connect with the youth on social media. SDMC will use photos of the two sisters in its print as well as outdoor campaign. Audio clips with messages from Geeta and Babita will be aired on FM radio stations and video clips will be aired on TV channels. Sharma said the decision to appoint the two sisters as brand ambassadors for the campaign was unanimous.
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