Are we an unclean nation?

Every time we visit a tourist spot in the UK, we end up asking this question – Why are our tourist places in India’ not as well maintained? My previous post had a lot of you commenting about this and I really felt that this needed a post of its own.

There is something about India and cleanliness. Most of our public places are atrociously dirty. We would find miles of rubbish and no dustbin anywhere. The saddest part is that even our holy places are more or less covered in filth. Now, before you guys start beating me up, let me try and analyse it out.

Some of the reasons that I can think of are

Government Apathy . I believe strongly, that governments with a will can make a difference.  We had gone to beautiful lake in Wayanad. It had all the right messages – ‘Do not litter’ , ‘No plastics’ etc.. it even had litter bins! And to be honest, there was no litter around – at least by Indian standards! However, even in this place, government apathy was visible. There was a small fresh water aquarium there and most of the tanks had sick looking fish and water that looked as if it had not been cleaned since ages! I found that so, so sad! When this is evident to a normal person like me,  why is it not evident to the authorities? Or is it that they just prefer to look the other way?

Isn’t it sad that so many of us, have seen so much more of places outside India, than in India. I find the Incredible India campaign really exciting! It makes me really sad that the beauty of a lot of these spectacular places get dimmed, when people talk about the inconvenience involved.

One thing that gave me solace though, was the fact that even the Eiffel Tower was covered in graffiti – made me happy that we Indians are not the only ones who feel the need to profess our love to so and so 🙂

In another tourist spot, in the same district, we came across the same noble messages, and this was a waterfall. So when we reached the waterfall – we found every kind of litter possible, hanging off trees and bushes. Now the waterfall is a few steps down – from the tourist information center – where they had provided bins and stuff. Clearly, people did not bother bringing up their litter – they just had to throw it where they stood.

That brings me to the second point

Apathy of the general public – I have had experiences of being called an ‘angrez’ – long before I even came abroad  – when all I had done was tell somebody that they could refrain from throwing garbage anywhere that pleased them. The attitude of so many people is – ‘I don’t care’!  Haven’t we all come across railway carriages full of peanut shells, sweets wrappers, newspaper bits.. anything and everything! I remember being told very strictly by my parents that throwing garbage anywhere else except the bins, was not done! And this basic rule, seems to have eluded most of us, Indians! And how do we change this? Clearly, we will not do anything unless there is a monetary aspect to it – so maybe the government should fine anybody who litters!

And why do I see most of you shaking your heads in disagreement? Because, we all know that fines are never really properly implemented, are they? Corruption in every level will probably ensure that fines would not really help.. Still, I think, it might be a step forward. Atleast the fear of fines, might prevent some people from throwing rubbish all over the place. I remember an old Doordarshan info clip, showing how we keep our houses spotless but would not think twice before dumping rubbish in public places! I remember someone saying that we, Indians, have a great need for ‘shuddhi’ (purification), but no real need for cleanliness!

Another complaint we keep hearing about India is the lack of public amenties like toilets. Most of us would not use a public toilet anywhere in India, thanks to the high hygiene standards that they adhere to! Here too, I think public apathy comes into play. While it is extremely easy to complain about it, I wonder how many of us do the basic things to ensure that the next person who uses the toilet is not inconvenienced! This is evident even in toilets in flights to India.. Within a minutes, the toilets would have water everywhere – toilet seats dirty, toilet tissue everywhere.. And this we do not get to see in flights to other destination. My husband was mentioning how at the client’s place, they had circulated a memo on the ‘correct usage of the toilet’!  Apparently people have complained that the condition of the toilets have deteriorated after the Indian vendors moved in! That is so shameful!

While, I do agree that we have a lot lacking in terms of infrastructure, we also have a lot of issues with people’s attitudes towards cleanliness and hygiene. I think, each of us can do our bit, by trying to, at the very least, leave the public toilet in a clean condition for the next person to use.. And teaching our children about the need to keep public places clean.

Littering does not just happen because people just go around throwing garbage wherever they please. In most of the cities that I have lived in, I had not found a very good system of household garbage disposal either. Most people leave the garbage outside their houses in polythene bags and these are shredded by neighbourhood dogs – if they get a chance! So now most people try and bring out the garbage, just before the garbage collectors come.. This might vary in some cities – I am just putting down my experience.. I do hope its better in some places at least! When we were living in Jamshedpur, in a Tata colony, I have to say  – the system was as good as the ones abroad. They had a huge garbage bin where everybody of a particular area would throw the garbage and this was periodically and systematically emptied! If one city can have this – why can’t this be replicated across? I think it has become a complex interlink of government apathy and public apathy.

Population is another aspect which we just cannot ignore.. With our steadily increasing population and so many people without access to basic amenities like water, expecting the country to be spic and span is a probably expecting too much! There is so much more to say, that I could go on and on… The one thing I feel strongly about is that , instead of pushing everything on our government, we could all do our bit. And that would make a difference.

Is it so difficult, to try throw garbage only in the bins provided, if there no garbage disposal system, carry back your garbage and dispose it off in a proper disposal?

To try and stop another person from littering?

To try and join local communties to see how we can make a difference…There is a lot being said about voting, but if we really want to make a difference, maybe, we need to get involved more.

One of the places that I had been to, during my last trip to India, had rubbish on the roads, pigs gorging on it and little children playing amidst all this – oblivious to all this! I certainly hope that one day, scenes like this – would truly, be something of the past! What do you think?