Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Is Cleanliness even important to Indians ?

                                 "Indians are individually smart but collectively dumb"

Whenever I travel in a train my biggest worry is about the toilets. The condition of our toilets is so pathetic that it is sometimes impossible to even be there for 2 minutes. We often put the blame of dirt on the poor (read economically weak) section of our society. But as per my information in a reserved class coach of a train it is nearly impossible for a person BPL family person whose daily expenditure is around 32 Rs/day (Planning Commission of India, which is soon going to be dissolved by the new government) to travel. So, for me it is proven that it is not the poor but people who can afford are the major reason for the filth.

Now, if I really reflect, I do not find much shout or concern about this filth across the country. None of our political parties have this in their manifestos. None of the drawing room conversation are around this issue. We talk about filth only for a while when we encounter it directly and then add our part, make it more dirty and forget. We make sure that our homes are clean and throw the garbage right across the road. We are such lazy bunch of people that we cannot go to the nearby municipality garbage bin and throw it there.

Recently I was reading a book "Games Indian Play:" by Prof.  Raghunathan, he interestingly describes our behaviour.  He writes that we as Indians are individually smart but collectively dumb. We make sure that our house is clean but also make sure that our society is dirty. We just wait for a spot in our lane to get a little bit dirty and then within a week we make sure that the spot turns into a heap of garbage. We have become so lazy, that sometimes we wait for the entire day and throw our garbage late at night and that too in front of our neighbors house.

A Common Scene in our neighborhoods (via Google Images)

For us as a country cleanliness is no where a priority and the worst part is that we have stopped expecting public places to be clean. Our benchmarks of cleanliness are so low that when someone from North Indian railway station travels to South India railway station he feels so excited about the relatively cleaner tracks and toilets. When someone from India travels abroad(not just USA or Europe but East Asia or Gulf Countries), she(/he) just imagines of a day when her(/his) country will have such cleanliness. For me personally it has become a huge challenge to think of a way to bridge this cleanliness gap.

Recently I was in Singapore and happy to see the cleanliness level of the country. Someone has shared with me the country comprises of around 20% Indian mainly Tamils, I also got to know there is aplace called mini-India. I got excited by the name and made sure that I have time during my stay to visit there. As I got out of the metro station at Mini-India and moved 50 meters away I was shocked to see the place, it was like a vegetable market in my hometown of Kanpur. Such a dirty and unorganised place, I felt as if Singapore law doesnt imply there. Nearly 99% of people were Indians, it was the dirtiest place I have seen in Singapore,  no one was following traffic signals. It truly was a mini- India !

During my stay in Singapore, I met a well known NRI woman and social activist. During our conversation she asked me about what can be done about cleanliness back in India and then shared something that shook me to the core. She shared that when Malaysia discarded Singapore, as it was a really dirty and filthy part, the first PM of Singapore in his maiden speech appealed people to clean-up. Cleanliness became the highest priority of the nation and today it is one of the cleanest nation in world.

It is time for us to make that resolve and stick to it until we achieve it. If we can't be a clean nation, I think it would be impossible for us to become a better & healthy nation. Cleanliness is a habit and it defines who we are.

It is time to refer Mahatma Gandhi again, who was the only leader of our country whose agenda had cleanliness as a top priority.

                                        "Cleanliness is godliness"- Gandhi