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

Friday, August 15, 2014

On this Independence Day !

Today as I write this reflecting on where we are after around 7 decades post independence, mixed feelings arise within me. I feel happy about so many achievements that we have had post independence, especially back in 1947 when the whole world was saying that India will break into small nations; we have brilliantly lived together as one nation. We are truly secular, democratic nation with so much of diversity. Our literacy rate has gone up drastically, we have an independent election commission and judiciary, we have achieved basic level of food security. There are numerous other things which we should be proud of today.

On the other hand I feel sad about the apathy that we have for our country. We as citizens don’t respect the freedom that we have got, the opportunity that this country has given us. I see India as one of the few countries where we preach about patriotism but don’t even act minutely according to it. I feel the country has given a lot to us but we for generations post independence have just taken from the country and not contributed back. We don’t understand our moral responsibility as the citizen. Citizenship is not a one way process and is not always transactional, it is a two way process. A nation will be in the best state when the citizens feel the interdependence with the nation.

You go to any railway station, bus stop, public toilet you will see that we least care about the condition of that place. Firstly we make sure that it is in the worst possible state and if not so then we don’t care to ask for a complaint register or make sure that we register our protest. We don’t want to engage with the institutions that are made for public interest, often the reason for not engaging is that what will happen by just one person protesting or complaining. I have often heard from my friends and family members,”What will happen by just you raising your voice. Nothing is going to change like this.” But I feel it makes a difference and the person thinks twice before doing the same thing next time.  

Today my only concern is that why don’t we follow the basic rules laid down by the constitution or before following, are we even aware of things happening around? Why don’t we confront people when something wrong is being done in front of our eyes ? Why don’t we make sure that we complete our work in best possible way and give our 100% effort ? Why are we OK with “Chalta-Hai” attitude?

We as citizens should think deeply on what culture we want to give to our coming generation and then see what changes we need to make in our daily habits. We need to be the role models who will spread the ripples of change. It is not always about doing big things, from my limited experience I feel, it is small but consistent efforts that make the difference.

Are we just going to be proud Indians or do something also?

Today, I pledge to be a more proactive citizen, follow rules more stringently, follow my duties in a better way and make sure to raise my voice if I see something wrong.   
Please share your pledge this Independence Day !

Happy Independence Day !

Prakhar Bhartiya