The Elusive Civic Sense

Deeply entrenched in my memory is a cover story published decades ago in now defunct, ‘The Illustrated Weekly of India’ of which I was an ardent reader in my youth. Columnist and scholar Khushwant Singh, then editor of the weekly, wrote in his inimitable, no-holds-barred style as to how Indians were the dirtiest people in the world. I won’t dare make such a statement but ………

It is a fact that India is far from being a clean country. Despite some improvement ever since the launch of swatchch Bharat campaign more than four years ago, the state of cleanliness remains sordid. Huge dumps of garbage dot the  landscape of cities. Waste lies dumped in every nook and cranny of the country. Wherever one goes – bus stand, railway station, parks, markets, offices  and even many places of worship; it is the general lack of cleanliness and hygiene that hits the eyes. It is difficult to find a public wall which has not been defaced with all sorts of posters or painted with dirty-red pan-spit. No historical monument is free from the graffiti posted by fellow Indians who are more interested in leaving their mark rather than preserving the rich heritage.

A ready explanation for the lack of cleanliness in India may be found in poverty and underdevelopment. But poverty cannot be a justification for lack of cleanliness in the country as there are many poor countries in Asia and Africa that are cleaner than India. Our country fares poorly in comparison to its neighbours Nepal and Sri Lanka in cleanliness. The tiny state of Bhutan is neat and orderly in sharp contrast to chaotic and unclean ambience of India. In Bhutan roads are swept at regular intervals, public washrooms are clean and all areas of tourist interest are scrutinized regularly to assess the quality of facilities.

Undoubtedly, we are callous about the upkeep of our public places and lack civic sense. We may be finicky about keeping our homes clean but the filth outside our homes does not bother us. The habit to litter is one habit that unites India. From North to South, with exception of Sikkim , people are obsessed with their personal hygiene but least bothered about the cleanliness of their surroundings. Littering and spitting here, there and everywhere in public places seems to be a pan India phenomenon.

Not just  the poor but even the rich in the country behave irresponsibly showing lack of civic sense. It may be shocking but, not unusual, to see a hand coming out of a swanky car to throw a wrapper or a peel on the road. Despite the public toilets, a gentle man getting down from his car to ease himself on the road side is a common sight. Evidently riches and higher incomes are no guarantee to better civic sense. Education doesn’t seem to have helped in creating the much needed civic sense either. Even in a city like Chandigarh where the literacy rate is one of the highest in the country, parks and markets can be found littered with garbage. Educated, well-to-do youngsters in the city can be seen snick-snacking in the parks and leaving tell tale signs of what they ate and from where they ordered. Also, people eat ground nuts in public places and leave a mound of shells. They would have a banana or an orange, there are peels left behind. Even in the posh Sector 17 market; people enjoy their hot-cold drink and eatables on the benches and coolly walk away leaving the trash behind. No wonder, all around the benches in the shopping plaza, one can invariably find empty packets, bottles, disposable glasses, wrappers, paper-plates and other left-over items. There may not be any dearth of dust-bins in public places but most of the bins are full and spill over due to either lack of regular disposal by the civic authorities or because of public callousness of throwing waste items around the bins and not into the bins.

Our behavior is in sharp contrast to Japanese who are highly civic conscious and disciplined people. They never litter; don’t create mess for the municipality to take care of the cleanup, not only in their own country but even outside. In the recently concluded FIFA matches in Russia, Japanese fans won the hearts as they stayed back after every match that their team played for cleaning up the trash in the stadium. What an exemplary behavior! On the other hand, we, in India, expect the government to do everything for us while our contribution towards maintaining cleanliness is zero, rather negative.

India is our country, our home and it is our responsibility and moral duty to keep it clean. What is needed in India is a Japanese-style attitude towards cleanliness where everyone, learns at elementary school itself that it is his or her duty to keep the shared spaces clean.

 Published in MCM College magazine Mehr Jyoti April 2018

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Verified by MonsterInsights