Swach Bharat Cess v/s Swach Bahrat mind-set – Can the Youth Play a Role

The views expressed by the author are personal and not of the institute where Dr. Navin Punjabi is employed or affiliated. I would like to acknowledge my students Mr. Ashish Sharma, Ms. Fatima and thier class to bring this interesting debate to class. You can email your thoughts at navin.punjabi@gmail.com

It was around 6.30 pm and I had just finished a case of ‘Role of a manager’ and on my way down just outside the gate I saw my student at the Panwalla lighting his cigarette!!! Looking at me out of respect he disposed his cigarette and approached me to discuss about the complicated role of a manager and the discussion just got hotter with politics at workplace and the role of manager. I offered him a ride and asked him if I could drop him somewhere on my way home and he agreed.

The discussion moved from role of a manager to the the most recent topic ‘Swatch Bharat Abhiyan’ The topic of ‘SWACH BHARAT ABHIYAN’ has been going around for quite some time now. It started when our honourable Prime Minister Modiji picked up a broom to clean up the streets of our country on 02nd October, 2014 with the objective of intimidating the people to do the   same! Our prime minister cleaned the streets himself and after he did so, he nominated 09 famous celebrities to join the challenge and then asked them to further nominate 9 other people to clean up the streets with a view of covering the whole of India slowly and gradually.
So basically this was our prime minister’s attempt to create an Indian version of the ‘ALS ice bucket challenge’ which time will tell if it can achieve the same success as the American awareness raising campaign! Funny isn’t it? How we enjoyed putting ice over our heads for a disease that hasn’t even reached India but we’re ashamed of cleaning up the garbage of our neighbourhood which is actually the cause of most of the diseases that we suffer from today!! Oh, forget cleaning, many are littering it and the worst part is that they don’t even care.
F.Y.I- you are liable to pay a fine Of Rs.250 for every piece of paper/wrapper/etc. you throw anywhere except a garbage bin! But the question here is who’s going to make you pay? Because appointing man force to monitor in every street of our country, trying to catch the offenders from our 122 billion people littering around…..doesn’t quite seem possible, does it?

So to overcome this limitation our government came up with something new…Yes!! A brand new cess! It’s called ‘The swach bharat cess’ This new cess is a cess levied on all the services which are taxable under chapter VI the Indian finance act 2015 at (50 basis points ) 0.5 percent of the value of services provided. The proceeds collected via this new tax will be used for cleaning, maintaining hygiene and promoting and creating awareness about health care. But, will this work? This tax was imposed on 15th November 2015 This cess is levied as an indirect tax i.e it does not differentiate between people of high or low income levels and also is difficult to evade. Therefore for people of medium to low income levels..it affects the consumption and saving Patterns. Apart from that the swach bharat cess also reflects a poor image of our country’s public finance, where to provide cleanliness and basic sanitation to its citizens the government has to impose an additional cess!
India is one of the country which has the highest taxes and the country with one of the highest tax system imposing a cess to keep the country clean may not be perceived well by many.
As a academician I thought let me take the opinion of the youth so I organized a small debate in class to test if the newly imposed cess will create a positive mind-set and encourage citizens to keep their neighbourhood clean !!!. The students came out with shocking statements like many people would perceive this cess as a service fee which they are paying to the government to keep this country clean so why should I take the pain.

This almost got me thinking that ‘do we need this new cess?’
Is this a vicious cycle where government cleans the country and the citizens litter again and the cycle goes on!!!

So maybe we don’t need a ‘swach bharat cess’ instead we need a ‘swach bharat mind-set’! You don’t like to clean things up? Fine. At least try not to make it dirtier. Use garbage bins. Many might say, ‘Ya ya don’t get started’, we have learnt this in our morals class, many might whine about how there are no garbage bins on the streets. You can easily find a dust bin in the city. There are government bins installed at places, you might find a bin outside a restaurant, even every panwalla keeps a bin now a days. These bins just go unnoticed or one is hesitant to use the bin as ne has not made any purchase from that panwalla. I personally feel the panwalla is an amazing channel to ensure cleanliness. After product, price, place and promotion he is the fifth P in the world of marketing. More than one Panwalla is present in every lane and if every panwalla has a dustbin and the government sensitise the masses the problem of cleanliness can be resolved to a great extent.

The debate in class had amazing outcomes few of the students recommended a “Swatch Baharat Amabssador program” (A youth volunteer Program to sensitise the citizens on swatchata). The youth is really excited to help and faculty members have to encourage and channelize the youth in the right direction. An Ashoka emblem certificate signed by the Honourable Prime minister of the country itself will be a great motivator for the youth to come forward and take the cause of cleanliness. I am aware the NSS and NCC wings of various colleges are propagating the cause of swach bahart, however an ambassador program encourages the youth to aspire to this new cause and not one of the cause. Well next time maybe when you’re walking down the street and you finish your packet of chips. Try holding on to the wrapper, keep it in your hands, your eagerness to free your hands will find you a dustbin within 10 minutes. I can assure you that!! So let’s get things right people!

Let’s maintain our surroundings, let’s make our ‘Bharat’, ‘Swach Bharat’ and Who knows, if the government might just get done away with this new cess if it feels it’s not needed anymore.

If you have any reflections or opinion please feel free to comment below.

Dr. Navin Punjabi is an Assistant Professor at H R College of Commerce & Economics and visiting faculty at leading institutes like BSE Training Institute, NITIE and other leading B-Schools. He can be reached at navin.punjabi@gmail.com and you can follow him on www.navinpunjabi.com


  1. Bhumika Jain says:

    First of all our country has a huge population which is illiterate and are unaware about the taxing system prevailing. If I may even put many of them arent even concerned about it since they arent even able to come out of the struggle of surviving and putting one more cess(keeping in mind its indirect) will just make the situation worse for them. Even education cess is collected and I really wonder where that money is used since surely its not used for the very purpose it is collected by seeing at the education system today. Also nobody is unaware about the scale of corruption in our country and one more cess may just add to it.
    If after 68 years of independence there is a need to collect a cess for cleaning our country then there is surely something to worry about!
    Lastly, providing education,sanitation and health facilites is one of the most basic and foremost responsibility of the government but having the conscience to keep our environment clean is the fundamental duty of each of the citizen.
    People will have to pay the tax as a rule but that wont necessarily make our bharat swatch so the very purpose of the cess is defeated.
    So according to me surely swatch bharat mindset wins over the swatch bharat cess! And involving the youth will be one of the most amazing solution for such a grave problem!

  2. If adding taxes would really make a difference, it would make a difference to the consumption pattern of people in low and middle income groups. The rich would not mind paying more but will definitely mind changing their littering habits. Some may feel that our duty is fulfilled by paying the cess, we need not do anything else to keep the country clean.

    Minds need to be cleaned of prejudices and lethargy before cleaning the country!

    • navinpunjabi says:

      Minds need to be cleared agreed. However cleaning the country at the same time is a good idea. Both levers need to go function correctly. Completely agree the rich won’t even feel the pinch!!!

  3. Bhavesh Sakhrani says:

    A very interesting concept.I personally feel that the fault is on both sides.The individuals expect the government to clean up the streets whereas the government expects individuals not to keep streets dirty.So I think both of them just blame each other instead of actually working to solve this issue.Both Government & Public should tackle this problem smartly.Whether the Swacch Bharat Cess will be successful that only time will tell.So let’s buck up and work for a better future.

  4. Absolutely. Of course, we have to strive for cleanliness and each one needs to take individual as well as community efforts for the same. It is everyone’s responsibility. It is great that you brought about this issue of cleanliness to the fore with your blog.

  5. Anusha Padigela says:

    Absolutely good idea Sir,but the problem arises with egoistic people and also with uneducated people who dont understand the value of cleanliness.They rather argue with the people who explains them about the cleanliness but dont understand.These are the people who eats tobacco and paan and spits on the walls and also who smokes n throws on the roads.How to deal with this kind of people ?

    • Agreed. I further suggest the government should empower the swatch Bharat student ambassadors and authorise them to collect fines from offenders. The logistics can be simple we can make use of local post office network which connects us across the state and has powers to deal in money and remittances. The swatch Bahrat student ambassador can collect the receipt book from the post office and deposit all the fines as well in the post office. !!!!

  6. Ayush says:

    My opinion regarding keeping someone to catch the people who litter and impose fine is a wrong way why can’t the citizen themselves be aware and understand not to litter we call ourselves as educated but if we cannot throw the garbage in bin then the question arise are we really educated

  7. Ankush Talesara says:

    Well, maybe it is a question of doing and practising Clean India Project. Just because one city is clean and other dirty does not mean the former won. Afer all it is Clean India, importantly how often do we even practise it in our homes, offices and streets. As far as the cess program is concerned maybe it is just cover the operating expenses in order to recycle and dispose of the waste in better technological methods.

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