The battle for the legacy of the Mahatma will be fought on the country's street corners and markets on October 2.
If Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch a campaign by doing shramdaan, or voluntary labour, against 'single use plastic' to mark the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of the Mahatma on October 2, the members of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty of the Congress, along with its other leaders, will organise padyatras to commemorate the occasion.
If the PM has tried to turn the Mahatma into an icon of his 'Swachh Bharat', or clean India, campaign since 2014, the Congress party will highlight that the father of the nation stood equally, if not more, for non-violence, communal harmony, and prevention of atrocities against tribals, dalits and women. The Congress has asked its state units to tell the people about the circumstances of Gandhi's assassination, and the culpability of Hindu right wing outfits in his murder.
The Modi government has put in place a multi-ministry plan to launch its campaign to ban 'single use plastic' on October 2. The PM had announced this campaign in his independence day speech. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has billed Modi's public rally in Rohtak on September 8 for the Haryana Assembly polls as 'eco-friendly'. The BJP flags will be of cloth, instead of plastic, and matkas, or earthen pots, will replace plastic bottles to provide water to party workers.
From September 11 to October 2, the Modi government has planned awareness drive on 'single use plastic' and make preparations for collection and disposal of plastic waste. On October 2, there will be nationwide shramdaan to collect 'single use plastic'. The PM will participate in this. From October 3 to 27, collected waste will be transported, segregated and recycled. An international conference will be held at the UN on September 24, and a “grand function” on the Sabarmati riverfront in Ahmedabad on October 2 to release a commemorative coin and postage stamps.
Meanwhile, the Congress has appealed party workers to collect at important locations across India to take a pledge to “rededicate” the party “to the values Mahatma Gandhi stood for” – non-violence, communal harmony, service of the poor, constructive work, prohibition, elimination of untouchability, prevention of atrocities on SCs, STs and women and strengthening institutions of panchayati raj.
For a week from October 2 to 9, Congress party’s district level committees have been asked to hold lectures, seminars, debates on the values and ideals that Gandhi stood for. “The theme should be relevance of Mahatma Gandhi in today’s social political and economic scenario in the country,” a letter from party’s general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal, sent to state and district committees, has stated.
On October 2, the Congress has planned padyatras at all state levels. The party has asked its workers to wear Gandhi topis, carry photographs of the Mahatma and chant slogans that reflect his ideals “so that thoughts of Gandhi could be spread across the nation”. The Congress has asked all its organisations to take the lead in preparing for the events and contact senior leaders to take part in the padyatra.
The Modi government has also planned releasing jail inmates, unveil Gandhi’s busts in 54 countries, and illuminate iconic buildings on October 2 and light and sound shows at India Gate in New Delhi, Rajkot and Guwahati.
Over 150,000 cyclists will travel across India in October to spread the message of cleanliness and banning ‘single use plastic’, over one lakh students will assemble their own solar lamps, a national handicrafts fair depicting Gandhi from October 1 to 15 and jan andolan, or people’s movement, against plastic waste, particularly elimination of ‘single use plastics’.
Ministries have been asked to come up with plans for disposal of plastic waste. The highlight of this is ministry of road transport proposing to use plastic waste for road construction, while housing and urban affairs ministry has suggested plastic waste could be used for construction of low cost housing.