Read in Civics long time back that ideal democracy is when all the residents of a city/village take part in making a law. This was followed in ancient Greece when all the residents sat in amphitheatres and made laws by voice vote. It’s obvious that It can’t be applied now due to large number of people but our ruling political parties are trying to bring all parties together towards a more democratic governance otherwise why would they take up the symbol of an opposing party as the tool for their major project. Well I leave that to political gurus to debate for months. In the meantime I simply feel that cleanliness is something which you are born with and not hammered into the brain later on in life. Before many of you start bashing me for being racist , I must clarify that my using ”born” here means you are born into a family who lives by the mantra “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” (world is my home…….and family). Till we accept this mantra cleanliness will have no meaning. Indians are famous all over the world for having several domestic helpers to scrupulously clean and clean whole day but only their houses, we remove shoes outside and have daily showers. Our every festival demands through cleaning of our homes and religious places are cleaned many times every day. Why is then our country needs the big cleanliness drive involving lots of funds which otherwise would have been used in economic growth, infrastructure development and betterment of everyone’s living standards. Corporations and government are not to be blamed as they are not the real reason for our filthy surroundings. We lack the basic understanding put very nicely by Poet John Dunne-““No man is an island, Entire of itself,…”
Occasional broom in hand celebrity photo is a nice momentary infusion of cleanliness but it will take a lot more to clean India. We are the ones making India dirty and we have to minimize our garbage in the first place to start towards cleanliness. We can’t call ourselves human if we get other human beings to pick up and sort our shitty garbage for the sake of making our country clean. Many of us have forgotten how the pay and use public toilets started in India. Because a man couldn’t tolerate other person cleaning his shit with bare hands he made the toilets. It was not because of his love for his country but for the love of humanity. Even Ghandhi ji cleaned his toilets himself but on a social networking site I saw a photo of an old man taking out plastic shields from soiled diapers and napkins without even gloves. With this mentality we can put an entire army and thousands of celebrities working 365, with our beloved leader giving speech after speech in the background the force of cleanliness will never be with India.
Last month I went on a long vacation and visited several places in one of nature’s preferred region in our country. Felt good when I saw some people out on the roads with brooms for the cleanliness drive launched on 2nd Oct. As always our foresight devoid politicians played with mob psychology. Something which doesn’t come from our hearts is as fickle as a feather in a stream. People either did this due to devotion to some leader or was forced on them. The feeling that my garbage can harbour germs and insects which can make someone else’s kid ill was still missing. People were out to make “Bharat Swachch” and not for the love of humanity or mother nature.
I visited one of the oldest cantonment area of India on that day. Many of you would know how clean a cantonment area in any city is, this was no exception. Roads were spic and span ready to be walked on barefoot, grass, flowers and trees nicely maintained and so on. Upon entering we saw army officers in their fatigues moving in groups with bags and sticks in search of that elusive piece of trash. A total waste of time but was mandatory so everyone was enjoying it. Later on I happened to visit their quarters and saw the backyards where domestic helpers lived with their families. Pile of non-degradable wastes were rotting with the less privileged kids playing there.(photo 1). Next day newspapers published the images of army personals and the clean roads but they forgot to publish the backyard garbage.
In our city in front of the passport office vans dump garbage. Local sheds leave their cows to enjoy shit wrapped in thin plastic bags(photo 2). Rag pickers try to salvage what little they can from it . Whole area stinks in the morning. This is allowed just because that region is one of the biggest slums of our city with hundreds of shacks. Recently they have been taken over by some mega property project and shacks have come on the footpath very close to the garbage dump.
I forgot all my manners and respect for elders when I shouted at an elderly gentleman who after feeding the stay dogs bread, came out of our housing society and threw the plastic wrapping paper in the storm water drain. I asked why he did that and answer was that it’s a drain and he can put garbage in it. I asked him did he know how long it takes plastic to degrade and for answer he walked away. This was just few days after a huge cleaning drive inside our society. This is just one example of thousands of such incidents every second in our country. The feeling just isn’t there so this call of picking up the broom is just waste of time.
On bigger level say for a city what would we do for this campaign? We will throw our waste in bins and not on roads. The collected trash will then go out to the outskirts of city in the landfill, making poor village kids live in the stink of it. Will that be Swachcha Bharat or should I say swachch privileged class. I don’t have to write about how the landfills pollute the soil and ground water.
When we are not capable of creating an island of garbage in the Pacific to keep the country clean, why generate waste. Chetan Bhagat rightly blogs about the ownership of an area of 10 meter radius around each person- “This sense of community, recognition of a greater good and collective ownership is the only way for the situation to change. Else, we risk this cleanliness drive becoming another social fad that will be forgotten when the novelty wears off”.