The oath taken by the PM on Independence day and the time taken to officially launch Swach Bharat Abhiyan on October 2nd to coincide with Gandhi Jayanti, is indeed a laudable effort. The scope of this mammoth exercise is simply mind boggling even by very ambitious standards.
Despite several attempts by various agencies to address this issue, progress has been woefully low. 2008 estimates show that rural sanitation coverage is at 21 % albeit a huge jump from 1% in 1980, is only but a shadow of acceptable international benchmarks. Comparatively, share of Indians with access to improved sources of water has increased significantly from 72% in 1990 to 88% in 2008.
This is of course a pan-India problem and affects each one of us at every juncture. If we view it from our industry’s perspective, given that it is a 120 Bn USD industry and having attained global standards of excellence, we simply cannot ignore this issue anymore. The office space that we occupy would easily add upto hundreds of millions of square feet, employing 3 million people directly and more than three times that number indirectly. So, in our immediate vicinity we cover a lot of physical space. Recently it was suggested by a senior industry leader, a NASSCOM member, that if each one of us take the pledge to keep the area around our offices clean – say a coverage of 100 m – cumulatively it will add to a significant amount of common ground covered. This discipline can be extended as well to all those who support our industry – cab drivers, eateries et al. Equally so, it can well be adopted in our personal space which will go a long way to make the environment cleaner.
Our industry is dependent on its people. The oft repeated demographic dividend. The physical infrastructure, sanitary conditions and the likes in rural India are pitifully low. Such adverse conditions have a detrimental effect on people and their ability to grow intellectually. Keeping the environment unclean will have a direct negative impact on the quality of manpower that is likely to come into mainstream within the next decade. Just as we talk of building a digital India, getting more young boys and girls to take up higher studies in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) it is imperative that basic living conditions are improved.
The CSR budget that is mandated is a great opportunity for IT companies to tap into, and impact the environment in a positive way. Already several companies have committed to contribute to the PM’s Swach Bharat Abhiyan leveraging their own capacity. By building a clean environment with better infrastructural amenities we not only make India a more attractive destination for foreign investments but also invest in the future of the next generation which is yet to come join the workforce.