Union Minister Alphons Kannanthanam on Sunday landed at the India Gate lawns here as part of the fortnight-long 'Swachhta Hi Seva' campaign only to find there was no garbage at the place where he was supposed to kick off the drive.
To the surprise of ministry officials and volunteers, mostly college students, who frantically went about "arranging" some garbage for Kannanthanam, the newly appointed tourism minister began collecting litter, including empty water bottles, pan masala sachets, ice cream cups and dry leaves with his hands.
Many onlookers did not recognise the minister as he shook hands with them, patted some on the back while asking people to keep the place clean.He also chatted with those selling street food like golgappas, asking them questions about how much they earned and advising them to ask their customers to throw the leftover food and plates into the dustbin.
"How much do you earn per day? Do you tell customers to throw the waste plates and tissues in the dustbin kept with you? Help us in making India clean."
The Minister said though a place like India gate is cleaned every day, there was a need to improve cleanliness.
The India Gate is one of the 15 tourist sites selected by the Ministry of Tourism where the cleanliness campaign will be carried out and popularised by roping in celebrities during the 14-day period, the minister said.
"We are out here cleaning India Gate. Cleaning programmes are going on across the country. The message is we have to keep India clean. Everybody and not just government officials will have to participate in this. And it has to be an everyday operation, not just once in a year and not just for the camera," the minister said.
The Union Minister found himself at the end of much backlash when he defended the rising fuel prices.
"Who buys petrol? Somebody who has a car, bike; certainly he is not starving. Somebody who can afford to pay has to pay," Kannanthanam had said as petrol and diesel prices hit a three-year high.
Speaking to media, Kannanthanam said the government is for the welfare of the downtrodden, and ensure that every village gets electricity, houses and toilets are being made.
“It is going to cost an enormous amount of money. So we are going to tax people who can afford to pay,” Kannanthanam added.