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The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) is powerful in its simplicity, and problematic for the same reason. The absence of complexity in the presentation of the campaign, and the inherent contradictions between Modi’s consumerist growth agenda and SwachhBharat’s objectives fuels my skepticism and raises many questions: Which parts of India will be cleaned, which not and why not? What will we do with the wastes we remove? Where will we put it?If cleanliness is to be the result, dirt would have to be the starting point. In a 1966 classic called “Purity and Danger,” anthropologist Mary Douglas points out that “If we can abstract pathogenicity and hygiene from our notion of dirt, we are left with the old definition of dirt as matter out of place. . .It implies two conditions: a set of ordered relations and a contravention of that order.”Cleanliness is a loaded word particularly in the Indian context with a notion of caste that is fine-tuned around social and physical interpretations of pure and impure, clean and unclean. Cleanliness, in this context, can be achieved by keeping the clean and the unclean separate. It is not just things and places that can be unclean, impure, dirty or unsightly. When DMK was last in power in Tamil Nadu, the then Minister of Local Administration M.K. Stalin launched a campaign calledSingara Chennai or Beautiful Chennai. Like with SwachhBharat, it is difficult to argue against a campaign to beautify a place we love. But beauty, like dirt, is in the eye of the beholder. Post SingaraChennai, the city is no different now in terms of garbage. But in the process, at least 20,000 slumdweller families have been evicted in the name of beautifying the city; they were relocated to tenements in Kannagi Nagar and Semmencheri which lie between 20 and 30 km from the city. Dirt here is a metaphor that could just as easily refer to people as to material objects.Given this historicity, simple campaign slogans without sub-text and caveats will remain superficial and perpetuate historical injustices and modern forms of casteism.The oath that Narendra Modi administered to school children and bureaucrats alike reminds them of their patriotic duty to restore order by cleaning up. “Ab hamara kartavya hain ki gandagi ko dhoor karke Bharat Mata ki sewa karein.” (Now, it is our duty to serve Mother India by removing the dirt.) Where will the dirt be removed to is left unsaid. Everything does not have to be spelled out. If dirt is matter out of place, it will have to be moved to its rightful place.In all modern cultures, cleaning up merely involves moving “dirt” from one place to another. Five decades ago, cleaning up may have been easier. It would have meant restoring the predominantly organic and compostable discards in the waste stream to its rightful place – namely, the soil – and facilitating its transformation into manure.  Over the past two decades, India has transformed from a sleepy nation living in its villages to an economic powerhouse with an urban population bursting at its seams. We can, as Modi did in the UN General Assembly, invoke our ancient culture to claim that Indians have a special relationship with and reverence for nature. But that does not take away from the fact that Indians or Americans, Hindus or Muslims, we are all worshippers of the same homogenising religion of consumerism. We are what our garbage is. Our garbage which once bore no resemblance to American garbage is increasingly peppered with the same brandnames, the same indestructible material, such as 
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