Take a train journey to the seat of India’s political power-New Delhi, or fly in to Mumbai-India’s financial capital-stagnated, smelly pools of water, mountains of waste and countless thousands of unplanned construction euphemistically described as JJ clusters (Jhuggi-Jhopri clusters) greet you. Drive in to Bangaluru, the Indian Silicon Valley or Kolkata, the Cultural capital of India and one drives along or on the garbage. Industrial towns of Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Meerut, Allahabad present no different sights. The centres of hard and soft power of our country stink-to put mildly.
Foregoing clearly disabuse the notion that filth is caused by acute poverty for its all pervasive in the country. Why the Indians who litter without any regard are so very careful even in disposing a chewing gum in Singapore? Why cities like London and Paris which used to drown in their own sewage and face cholera epidemic have overcome the problem more than a century ago? Why a more densely populated country like Japan is so clean, so well organised, how a sleepy cluster of villages not even having own source of fresh water became toast of Asia-Singapore? This disabuses the notion that dense population leads to the stress on the resources and hence the filth.
Countries like Switzerland, Japan take pride in the fact that every tap carries potable water. Whereas, in our country even the wells and hand pumps give polluted water.
So, what has gone wrong for our country?
A careful analysis of above indicates that cleanliness is outcome of well thought of systems approach which considers the issue of cleanliness holistically. A disciplined society is but one requirement of clean environs. A carefully planned municipal infrastructure and services is the bedrock of cleanliness. There is hence a need of well planned network of sewers and storm water drains, also a well planned garbage collection and disposal is an imperative. However, a most diligently planned and executed infrastructure full fall flat if its in hand of callous populace.
This brings us to the issue of sense of responsibility, loosely referred as ‘civic sense’. However, the conventional civic sense needs to be upgraded to include the way we treat not just our fellow citizens, but also the way we treat our infrastructure. To illustrate, upon entry in to Delhi, one is greeted by the mounds of plastic waste, which chokes the drains and present challenge of disposal even after the drain are cleaned. Adopting environmentally benign life style now underpins the civic sense of modern times. Extending courtesies and accommodating fellow citizens continues to be an important facet of civic sense, but as explained, there is need to expand the definition to include extension of courtesies to mother nature and civic infrastructure.
So, how to instil civic sense? The role models of society-the political leaders, celebrities and media need to supplement well crafted inputs through academic institutions, local governance institutions. Deep rooted practices need a generation long inputs. Mass media and internet gives unprecedented reach to the last citizen to educate them about the issue.