PM’s ‘Real Hero’ of Swachh Bharath, Chandrakant Kulkarni in City – An Exclusive
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Real Hero’ of Swachh Bharath, 70-year-old Chandrakant Damodar Kulkarni of Pune has been in Mangaluru City for the last four days staying at Ramakrishna Math guest house, Mangaluru- and Team Mangalorean had an exclusive Interview with him, where he revealed his active participation in the Swachh Bharath Campaign to make a better and Clean India- and he had big praises for Ramakrishna Math of Mangaluru for their “Swachh Bharath-Swachh Mangaluru” Campaign-where he said it is ONE of the BEST Swachh Bharath Abhiyan/Movement among all the Cities that he had visited in Bharath!
“I worked for 35 years at a missionary school named St. Joseph Boys School in Pune’s Khadki region and would regularly attend the Sunday mass at the church in school. My colleagues would ask me if I felt like becoming a Christian. I would say to them that whenever I bowed before Christ I saw Lord Mahadev in him. To me faith means equality. I firmly believe that God is one, but there could be different names. Let there be PEACE in the world, and that’s my prayer. Let’s all live in harmony irrespective of caste or creed, and live as just INDIANS”- Chandrakant Damodar Kulkarni
Mangaluru: Talk about the Swachh Bharath campaign launched by PM Narendra Modi, that more and more citizens of India are actively participating in this campaign, right from young and old, and here we have a 70-year-old retired teacher hailing from Pune-Maharashtra State who has taken a big stand in bringing awareness about Cleanliness in India, even after his retirement from his teaching post. Chandrakant Damodar Kulkarni from Pune has been in Town and has actively involved in Ramakrishna Mission’s “Swachh Bharath-Swachh Mangaluru” campaign during the weekend- and Team Mangalorean had an opportunity to meet this Good Samaritan of Swachh Bharath for an exclusive interview.
On the outset, 70-year-old Chandrakant Kulkarni took special pride in introducing himself as Chandrakant Damodar Kulkarni and addressing Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Narendra Damodardas Modi- for the fact their similar middle names aren’t the only things linking the two men. Kulkarni,70, a retired teacher of drawing in Pimpri Chinchwad township near Pune, says the Prime Minister has made him “world famous” by mentioning him three times in his Man Ki Baat radio programme. He said that one of his old friends called him up from Australia after hearing Modi mention him for his “inspirational” contribution to the Swachh Bharat Kosh (Clean India Corpus) from his pension. Kulkarni, who gets a monthly pension of Rs.16,000, has given 52 post-dated cheques of Rs.5,000 each to the corpus. He decided to make his contribution after he heard Modi’s 15 August 2015 speech, where the Prime Minister said 77% of the population in Uttar Pradesh had no access to toilets. And dueto this Kulkarni said that he was appalled.
In a face to face interview at the premises of Ramakrishna Math-Mangaluru, Chandrakanth D Kulkarni was overwhelmed to meet a member of the media from Mangaluru, none other than Yours Truly from Mangalorean.com, where he was very open to share his thoughts and views pertaining to PM Modi’s Swachh Bharath campaign. Noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi honoured and recognized him for this humble deed, Chandrakanth said, this shows that India is changing for better. “I have no doubt that Mangaluru will soon become one of the cleanest cities,” he said. And for that matter, I hope so too!
Kulkarni is proud of his family’s support for the gesture. His wife Anjali C K Kulkarni (60) works as an office superintendent at a Central Ordnance Depot-Pune, his son Mangal Kumar (38) is a marketing professional at an IT firm in Pune, and while his daughter Manali is an intern at Delhi’s Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health, Neuro and Allied Sciences. Chandrakanth had his schooling at St. Joseph Boys School in Pune’s Khadki region until his 11th standard, after which he took up diploma in Drawing, and later worked at the same school where he studied as a Drawing Teacher, until he retired in 2007 after 35 years of service. And now that he is away from home at least 7-8 days a month doing his Swachh Bharath campaigning, his family has no problem with that and are fully supporting his work.
Kulkarni saw hard times after his father died when he was only 13. “But I did not give up. I did all the hard work for my family. But leaders like Shastri and Vajpayee did all the hard work for the country. Modiji works for 16 hours a day.” he says. Chandrakant Damodar Kulkarni, a life member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad—an off shoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is the latest agent of change for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. After his retirement in 2007, he has been working for social causes and three years ago, he decided to get associated with Modi government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. He decided to give a part of his pension from June 2015 to Sept 2019 to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. His monthly pension is Rs 16,000 (which has now been raised to Rs 18,000) and has decided to contribute Rs 5,000 every month towards this mission and has already signed on 52 post-dated cheques, amounting to around Rs 2, 60,000, which has been handed over to the PMO.
Kulkarni has been giving a series of media interviews from his modest two-bedroom flat. The only symbol of middle-class indulgence in his home is a 52-inch television set. Everything else is mundane and modest. Kulkarni retired in 2007 from St. Joseph Boys School in Pune’s Khadki region. He proudly calls himself a “hard-core” Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker and a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) member. Both are pro-Hindu outfits.“I worked for 35 years at a missionary school (St Joseph Boys School) and would regularly attend the Sunday mass at the church in school. My colleagues would ask me if I felt like becoming a Christian. I would say to them that whenever I bowed before Christ I saw Lord Mahadev in him. To me faith means equality,” he said.
“I am embarrassed by so much of attention. All credit goes to PM Modiji. He is a great leader who acknowledges the small help that small people like me give,” said Kulkarni, clad in a white dhoti and tunic with a saffron scarf during the interview. When asked is this how he used to dress all the time, “No, during my teaching tenure at the school I used to wear pant and a coat/suit. Only after I took up the Swachh Bharath campaign three years ago, since then till now is my present attire ” he replied. He also had a placard hung around his neck which had saying in English and Hindi : “God is One, Names could be different. Let there be Peace in the World. Swachh Bharath! Swachh Bharath! Swachh Bharath! ” Following are the excerpts from an hour long interview with Chandrakanth Damodar Kulkarni:
Q: What made you to take the decision to contribute towards PM Modi’s Swachh Bharath Campaign?
In 2014, when PM Modi made a speech from Red Fort-New Delhi calling for Swachh Bharath, where he also mentioned about having no toilet facilities in Uttar Pradesh, I felt very hurt. I have two toilets in my home. Can I not help Modiji build the same for women in Uttar Pradesh who have to wait for darkness to fall to step out to relieve themselves? In Hinduism, the city of Kashi (Varanasi) is known as the city of Lord Mahadev. But I am ashamed that women in Lord Mahadev’s city do not have toilets. My contribution is in fact of my selfish path to spiritual contentment. “Swaarth se parmarth tak,” (Hindi), from self-interest to God. Immediately I wrote a letter to the prime minister’s office (PMO) expressing my wish to contribute to the Swachh Bharath Abhiyan. I also sent 20 post-dated cheques of Rs 5000 each along with the letter.
I waited for 4 months but no reply from PM’s office- so I wrote again, and two months later I got a reply that they were reluctant to accept a contribution from a retired teacher’s modest pension. But later I got a call that Modi would like to meet me during his Pune visit for the launch the Smart City Project. When I got a call from the PMO, I could not believe what the officer was saying. My daughter-in-law even suggested we check the number using true caller! When I went to meet Modiji, I felt like hugging him. But being a teacher, I know I have to follow the protocol. He held my hand for a long time and I gifted him two books on Shivaji Maharaj and Samarth Ramdas. I also told the PM that this is money earned by ethical means; I want it to be used ethically. He was worried how a pensioner like me would live without one third of the pension. I told him I do not need the entire monthly pension and I am glad he accepted my contribution.
Q: What was your reaction after PM Modi announced your name twice during Mann Ki Baat radio programme and also when he met you personally in Pune?
Wow! It was the greatest moment in my life that a leader of such a vast democratic country announcing my name over the radio and also meeting me personally. I had tears of joy in my eyes- I was totally overwhelmed. PM also interacted with my family members, and asked my grand kids whether they are helping their grandpa, and when they said no, PM Modi held their ears and warned them that they better show love and care towards me. It was a hilarious moment. I was happy to note that a man of high post meeting an ordinary person like me. After I explained in details why I want to contribute some funds from my pension, PM Modi agreed, and now they have been cashing my cheques.
Q: How do you feel about yourself by involving in this Swachh Bharath Campaign?
I feel great that I am doing a great service to the nation by bringing awareness among the citizens of India on cleanliness. Just like me every Indian can do it- there is nothing wrong in participating in the Clean India Drive. PM Modi alone can’t do it-he needs the support and cooperation of every India in this respect. Everyone if you are working, should contribute 2% of your income towards this campaign. If we all are ready to give to temples, churches or mosques, why not contribute also to this Swachh Bharath campaign. We should also spread the word of love, peace and harmony in India and around the globe. there should not be any discrimination between caste, religion and creed. I am extremely happy that I am dedicating myself for the good cause of Clean India. I have been honored and felicitated at various occasion by various organizations- that makes you feel great.
Q: Do you trust the government to make good use of your hard-earned money contribution to this campaign?
After I heard PM Modiji’s speech, I did my own study on this issue and found out that to make progress, every citizen must have access to a toilet, which is the most basic thing. I also thought that Modiji is the right person to trust with my money. I felt the same about Lal Bahadur Shastri and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I have full confident that the government will use my money for the right cause- I have seen it when I had visited many places- progress has been done by the govt. Once upon a time the Kashi ghats were filthy, but they have been cleaned- similarly many rivers across India have been cleaned. I trust the govt that they are using my money wisely and for the right cause.
Q: What better ways other than Swachh Bharath Campaign can improve Cleanliness in India?
Apart from Swachh Bharath Abhiyan, we can follow three things- Thun (Physical body cleanliness), Mun (Cleanliness of Mind), and Dan (Monetary Transparency). We need to keep our body clean all the time, and also we need to have a clean mind. And if we have enough wealth, we should share it for the right cause. We all should think India as our country, just like our house, thereby keeping it clean. then only you will have a feeling that you have done good for your country.
Q: What do you have to say about the Swachh Bharath/Swachh Mangaluru Campaign undertaken by local Ramakrishna Math?
When I heard good things about the Swachh work done by Ramakrishna Math from a Guruji in Gokarna Math, I wanted to come down to Mangaluru and spend few days among the volunteers of the Math. I heard that nearly 20,000 volunteers take part in the campaign here-that’s amazing. I have been travelling all over India to witness Swachhata Abhiyan. I have participated in Swachh Mangaluru Abhiyan for last two days, and I have never seen any other movement regarding Swachhata abhiyan as consistently and as successfully being carried in Mangaluru. I credit Ramakrishna Mission for this. The volunteers here are doing yeomen service, and I can guarantee that Mangaluru sooner or later will be the cleanest city in India. Trust me- Ramakrishna Mission can do it, the way they are working on this campaign. Changes are already been seen in Mangaluru. I would have stayed here for few more days, but due to my other commitments I have to leave. If I get a chance I will surely visit once again to join in the Swachh Mangaluru Abhiyan.
Q: What are your words of wisdom for the readers of Mangalorean.com?
First of all I thank the member of Mangalorean.com for giving me an opportunity to share my views and news. Journos like you can make a difference and bring in a change in the society. We should all know that Swachh Bharath is a mission, and we should actively participate in that mission. We should make Cleanliness as part of our daily lifestyle habits. Like for many prayer is part of their daily routine life, why not cleanliness can also be made part of daily life. Let us all follow in the saying that “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”. we all can do it if we make up our minds. Let’s work in unity, and in peace and harmony for a better and cleaner India. Jai Swachh Bharath! Jai India!”