Delhi sweepers to fly to Japan, South Korea for lessons

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Street sweepers from New Delhi will embark on an official trip to Japan and South Korea to learn more about their trade, sparking consternation among bureaucrats who usually undertake overseas tours, a news report said Saturday.

A team of 10 sweepers and diggers – who excavate holes in roads, maintain drains and dig gardens – from New Delhi Municipal Council will visit the countries starting next week, the Indian Express daily reported.

They will learn about sanitation, cleanliness, waste disposal as well as the upkeep of local markets, residential areas and townships in their week-long tour.

“We were surprised when we saw the list of group members. I’m seeing such a proposal to send ground-level staff for the first time – otherwise most foreign trips are taken by senior officials,” an official from the External Affairs Ministry that approved the tour, told the daily.

The government last year sought to curtail foreign trips by officials to cut wasteful expenditure and instead recommended “officers at the functional level” should go on foreign tours.

“We took the decision to boost their morale. They must know how cities abroad are maintained by ground-level staff,” New Delhi Municipal Council chairman Naresh Kumar said.

The tour by sweepers comes amid a nationwide campaign for cleanliness and better sanitation launched by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year.

“I never dreamt I will have a passport. I could never imagine I would go abroad one day,” Lalit Kumar, who is part of the delegation, told the paper.

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