Union Tourism Minister KJ Alphons Kannanthanam landed at the India Gate lawns on Sunday to kick off the fortnight-long ‘Swachhta Hi Seva’ campaign, only to find no garbage at the designated places.
Although this caused much panic among the ministry officials and volunteers, who fanatically went about trying to “arrange” some garbage for the minister to collect, the newly-appointed tourism minister politely started collecting litters including pan masala sachets, dry leaves and plastic bottles with his hands, instead of waiting for the “garbage” to get accumulated.
Many of the onlookers did not even recognize the minister, who was dressed casually in a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, as he went about shaking hands with some and patting the back of others, asking everyone to join the endeavor to keep the city clean always.
Alphons was also spotted chatting with the street food vendors, asking them questions about their daily earning and advising them to ask their customers to throw the leftover food and plates into the dustbin:
How much do you earn per day? Do you tell customers to throw the waste plates and tissues in the dustbin kept with you? Help us in making India clean.
While interacting with the media, the minister highlighted the urgency to keep the cities clean, including even the tourist areas which are cleaned every day.
The India Gate is one of the 15 tourist sites selected by the Ministry of Tourism where the cleanliness campaign will be carried out and popularized by roping in celebrities during the 14-day period, said the minister.
We are out here cleaning India Gate. Cleaning programs are going on across the country. The message is we have to keep India clean. Everybody and not just government officials will have to participate in this. And it has to be an everyday operation, not just once in a year and not just for the camera.
The other tourist destinations where cleanliness and awareness activities will be conducted by the ministry include Rishikesh Ghats in Uttarakhand, Juhu Beach in Mumbai, Dakshineshwar Temple and Belur Math in Kolkata, Kovalam Beach in Kerala and Kamakhaya temple in Guwahati.
A senior official from the ministry informed that 30 additional sites across the Indian states would also be covered during the campaign.