As part of the Government of India’s nationally televised “Swachhta Hi Seva” relaunch, spiritual leader and humanitarian Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi (Amma) held a video conference with the Honourable Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi. Amma, the sole representative from Kerala, participated from the Amritapuri Ashram’s huge darshan hall, which was overflowing with devotees, disciples and students from the Mata Amritanandamayi Math’s university and schools.
Aside from Amma, other dignitaries who participated included actor Amitabh Bachchan, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, industrialist Ratan Tata and a dozen others.
At the Prime Minister’s request, Amma spoke about the environmental protection and cleanliness efforts of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math. Amma said, “For many years now, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math has been actively involved in awareness campaigns and activities in areas such as environmental protection, cleanliness, health and water conservation. This year alone we have conducted 1,700 cleanliness drives all over the country. And we donated Rs. 100 crores to the Swatcch Bharat - NamamiGange campaign. We also have constructed 15,000 toilets in Kerala.”
Amma also said the lack of toilets in rural villages remains a problem. “It’s not only a matter of dignity but also of security for women, who have to go out into the night to relieve themselves. Long back, I was invited to a devotee’s house. Reaching there, we found there were no toilets. The women would have to relieve themselves in the open. Staying there, we would have to restrain ourselves until late night. So, Amma knows first hand the difficulties of such village women.”
Amma also informed the PM about the Math’s efforts with regards to its village adoption program. “We have adopted 101 villages throughout the nation as part of the Amrita SeRVe program. In these villages we have not only constructed toilets but also taught the women living there how to construct toilets. This has helped them to earn a living and become self-dependent. In these villages, we are also conducting women-empowerment programs.”
Amma also spoke about her ashram’s invention of the reusable and biodegradable Saukhyam sanitary pad. “It’s not enough to know about waste management. We also need to know how to stop producing waste,” Amma said. “For example, the sanitary pads readily available in the market are not biodegradable and add to the waste in the country. Amma’s ashram has created ‘Saukhyam Pads,’ which are made from cotton and banana fibre. They can be reused and are also biodegradable. For women in the Amrita SeRVe villages, making these pads has also become a means to earn a living.”
“It is not enough if a diabetic patient takes medicine. He also needs to control his diet. Similarly, with cleanliness, awareness should start at the school level. Amma’s wish is that every school and college take up the responsibility of maintaining cleanliness for two kilometres around their campus. Waste collection is one part. But each municipality or panchayat should also have a place to segregate, recycle and dispose of trash. Otherwise our efforts will be incomplete.”
“The Math is also involved in many research activities, including the possibility of injecting mosquitoes with a gene that would render them incapable of carrying dengue or malaria.”
“Amma has informed all of her devotees and well-wishers all over the country to take part in this Swacchata Hi Seva campaign in a dedicated manner. Echoing the Prime Minister’s call to make Indian clean and beautiful again, Amma gives the assurance that the Mata Amritanandamayi Math will always play a strong part.”
Prime Minister Modi said, “Amma, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, I am very happy that you took time to be a part of this event today, gave it your blessings. Your blessings are always a great source of strength for this movement. You have always been a beacon of hope for the poor and needy. And I have always been a recipient of your love. From the time of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake to the present day, whenever there has been an opportunity to serve, you have always been there in the forefront. You have played a very important role in making the desire to serve the poor to become more firm within me. The contribution to Swacchata Hi SevaAbhayan in the form of your blessings, time, resources and the efforts of your volunteers has given the movement great speed and energy. The training that you have given women to become masons and to construct toilets is a great example of Human Resource Development and skill-development. Women were always ahead in matters of cleanliness and sanitation. But now you have also given the skill and empowerment as well. I offer my pranams to all the efforts being rendered by you.”
Immediately following the television program, Amma and devotees went to clean a sixteen-kilometre stretch of coastal belt near the ashram. Among the devotees who participated were Durga Lekshmi & Suraj S.; Mithula & Dhanush, couples who were in traditional marriage clothing. Their wedding was performed by Amma immediately after the completion of the cleaning drive. Over 3000 students, faculty members and staff members, ashramites and visitors joined Amma to clean a sixteen-kilometre stretch of coastal belt near the ashram.
Twelve hundred students and three hundred staff members of the Coimbatore campus cleaned two bus stands and Ettimadai village, Chinampathi village, Ayyaswami Koil, Chavadi, Thiruvnampalayam, Velanthavalam roads and Periyapudiur in Coimbatore district. Shri. Shanmugham, one of the MLAs of Tamil Nadu, while inaugurating the function at Ettimadai Junction, mentioned the Amala Bharatham project of Ashram and said the Central Government has taken inspiration for the Swachhata programme from this initiative. The clean up and awareness programme at Coimbatore generated a lot of enthusiasm in the general public and has resulted in a massive awareness campaign for Swachhata in Coimbatore, as well as among the student population. A set of students and staff cleaned the roads and another set of students distributed pamphlets creating an awareness about cleanliness. Through promotional materials and in practice, the importance of cleanliness and hygiene was demonstrated to the public. A street play organized by the MSW Department effectively brought out the values of cleanliness in a concrete and entertaining way for the general public.
Amrita's Kochi campus also organized Swacchta Hi Seva at Ernakulam as part of the Amrita Values program from September 14-19, 2018.
Amrita's Mysuru campus volunteers extended their support to the national relaunch of the Swachhta Hi Seva 2018 programme by cleaning their campus.
Under Amma's guidance, the Mata Amritanandamayi Math and its worldwide component, Embracing the World, have taken environmental protection as one of their primary aims for decades. In 2015, Amma contributed Rs. 100 crores to the NamamiGange — Clean the Ganges Project. This sum was used to construct toilets in poor villages along the Ganges. The Math has also constructed 15,000 toilets for the poor in Kerala and has an on-going programme wherein it is trains women in basic plumbing and masonry so that they can build not only their own toilets but toilets for others as well. Throughout the world, the Math and Embracing the World have planted more than one million trees as part of the United Nations Billion Tree Campaign, and the Math annually organises approximately 1,700 cleanliness drives as part of the Amala Bharatam Campaign it launched in 2010. These are conducted regularly at its Amrita Vidyalayam Schools, Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham campuses, Amrita SeRVE adopted villages and ashram centers throughout the nation. MAM volunteers also have cleaned the famous Sabarimala Temple and Pampa River annually since 2011, each year removing tons of trash. Through education campaigns in Amma's 101 adopted Amrita SeRVe villages, the Math has helped 16 villages throughout India attain Open Defecation Free status by Swacch Bharat Abhiyan. And the Math is currently involved in a self-financed Rs.100-crore project called "Jivamritam," wherein it is providing free water-filtration systems to 5,000 rural village centres throughout India, with the goal of thereby providing water purification for one crore villagers.