How is India's cleanliness initiative reshaping the country?
Posted on highway dividers and painted on walls of schools, spread across billboards and stamped on government documents - In India, it’s impossible to avoid the Swachh Bharat initiative and the small iconic Gandhi glasses that symbolize this program.
In 2014, Prime Minister Modi launched a new campaign: Swachh Bharat or “Clean India” in English. Inspired by Gandhi's original vision for the country, the new initiative is trying to reshape how India stays healthy and clean. From providing a toilet to every home and enabling fresh drinking water in slums, beach clean-ups at the coast and more breathable air in cities, Swachh Bharat is reaching from India’s villages to its expanding megacities.
While the initiative started with the government, the ideas behind it are shaping new businesses, social enterprises, NGOs, and daily life across the country. We are curious about how the world’s largest democracy is working to enact positive change from sweeping policy to local innovation.
Atlas Workshops has explored Swachh Bharat in India with high school students looking to understand global issues, and VC firms looking to invest in related businesses and programs. Our Swachh Bharat trips include an exploration of key systems and challenges, like drinking water or start-up ecosystems, so our travelers can unpack this huge idea. We also spend time exploring neighborhoods, communities, and even villages in order to frame the context: tasting regional Indian foods, marveling at the Taj Mahal, exploring local marketplaces, and more.
Starting in Mumbai, we’ll get a taste of India’s rapid growth as we explore a range of innovative organizations and projects in the city, and visit some of the amazing cultural sights in Colaba and along the Indian ocean. We’ll take some time to get out of the city and explore the countryside to see how lifestyles vary nationwide.
We’ll then fly to Delhi in the North to continue our research and see the parks, markets, and hubs of the city. We’ll spend a day exploring the idea of clean water, visiting a historic well, and getting a government perspective on the campaign, too. At the end of the trip, we’ll travel to Agra for a day trip to the Taj Mahal and work as a team to ask how a government can build a clean movement, and what lessons we can bring home to our own country and community.
Other activities may include:
Visit the World Famous Taj Mahal and explore the craftsmanship inside this unforgettable monument
Explore an urban village to think about lifestyles in modern and ancient India
Meet with experts or government to learn about the Swachh Bharat campaign firsthand
Visit the India Gate and see the sights of old Bombay
See Swachh Bharat in action as we visit different local non-profits
Walk along the coast of the Indian Ocean on a visit to the Queen’s Necklace
Investigate clean water with research on water systems around Delhi
Meet with designers and social entrepreneurs in a local design hub in Delhi
Get outside of the big city for a chance to experience a more rural Indian lifestyle
Try delicious Indian foods like pau bhaji and a classic butter chicken curry
India’s Swachh Bharat is a nationwide program covering this massive country. While our previous programs on this theme have centered around the Delhi and Mumbai mega-cities, we run programs to many regions of the country and can adapt an itinerary to spend more time in smaller cities or towns, especially in South India.
High school or university trips on this theme can work through a design thinking process to explore user needs relating to Swachh Bharat and develop or test new program ideas in partnership with Indian students or colleagues. We can also take a more analytical or political approach as we structure the trip around an introduction to international development, governance, or social enterprise.
When working with VC firms or businesses, we can structure the experience to get deeper behind the scenes of key businesses and the investment landscape in India, and even line up opportunities to share your work, find opportunities, or investigate focused themes that are of interest. One previous trip, for example, included field-based due diligence for a possible venture deal.