Sunday, 16 November 2014

Clean and Sanitized India : From my point of view

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan was launched with much fanfare from the echelons of Red fort on 15th August 2014 to provide independence from the dirt, filth surrounding the public places in India. It has various political, economic, health and environmental and aesthetic connotations. The program calls for at least 2 hours a week of dedication from the citizens to keep your city clean and green and maintain the decorum of public places. This has led to coming out of various celebrities doing symbolic cleansing of the area around their locality or politicians using the brooms to clean up roads which were deliberately made dirty.
However, when I look around, I don’t find any sea change in the awareness of large sections of society; forget a change in overall picture. I have not seen a single political activist, Bollywood celebrity or the so called social volunteers (NGOs) coming out to clean slums, ghettos, or the tracks of Indian Railways. There is a take here, clean areas that doesn't have any social stigma attached with it – this is swachhta called for these elites.

Well, leaving this social, cultural paradigm aside, I thought of conducting a survey in my locality about the way people took the programme in general. Well, due to low access to manpower, I decided to side-line this idea and simply went to talk about the cleanliness individually from my neighbours and it is hard to believe the outcomes. Most people especially youths are not aware of the programme and even if they are aware, they tend avoid any confrontation. The social behaviour teaches us not only ignore the wrongs inflicted but be a part of that wrong. This is what in general parlance we call, “imitation”. “Why should I be doing everything right, when all others are doing the same”. The same thing goes with corruption, red tape and other problems of India.

Coming back to my point, the outcomes are with regard to cross examination I myself faced from people. When I asked them about various methods to maintain clean places, the first question was, “Does these places even have dustbins? Where else do you expect us to throw? When you travel by railways, I never found any dustbin in the compartment.” I wondered how Delhi Metro remained so clean even when there are no dustbins. Well, the same person tend to keep the litter in his/her bag while in a metro as a part of social co-presence and the same person tend to throw away the garbage on the track or on platform, again as a part of social co-presence. Though there is definitely a need for providing ‘use me’ at certain distance on roads and at key public places.

Recently, my mother’s school has introduced a dustbin despite the fact that there is no canteen in that rural village, neither child bring any food from home as it is provided under Mid-Day Meal Scheme. So, before kick-starting a program it is necessary to create provision for dustbins at places. However, placing dustbins must be supplemented by continuous monitoring of these dustbins by municipal corporations/ contractors so that the garbage doesn't rote and are taken for processing through waste treatment plants.

Other questions I faced were. “Are there any community toilets and even if they are, they are worse off and seems that nobody has cleaned them ever. Further, some of them at bus stands and stations have been contracted and why should I be paying for the same thing that I can do in open?” While they have some genuine concern on this one. I myself wondered most of the times that there is lack of availability of community toilets. If we don’t talk about the Sulabh Experiment in New Delhi, most of tier-II and tier III towns don’t have community toilets. 

Further, there is no manpower and proper water availability to lean these toilets. Most of the times, they stink and are nothing but rusted ammoniated marble structures. Thus open defecation is sort of institutionalised and more people prefer to go in fields as these offer somewhat pleasant experience then those toilets.

 Now, coming to disposal of waste that has been generated especially at the household level. Household is one of the greatest consumption Unit and thus among the largest contributor to waste both food and non-food. “There is no segregation of plastic bags from the other food waste. This leads to a great problem as I have to wash these plastic bags from water to sell for recycling”, said the rag-picker who is contracted by our municipal corporation. Well, he is right in the sense that, most of us don’t segregate the waste that will make it easier to dispose, recycle, reuse. The food waste like peeled off vegetables and rotten food can be directly routed to centres of animal breeding or stray dogs. This will help in disposing off the waste. Further, polythene can be segregated and can directly be given to the rag pickers. That will not only act as a source of livelihood and recycling but also help prevent water pollution that comes out of washing those polythene bags. There are various land fill sites in my city near civilian institutions like colleges where the waste is dumped first. From there it is taken to a plant outside the city where it is again dumped causing land degradation twice. It is necessary to collect waste at once and exhuming directly to the waste disposal plants. Further, more consumerism has given rise of more waste generation but the capacity of the plants remaining same; there is huge pressure and slow disposal. That needs to be reinvigorated and shall be the main area of focus.

Further, there is need for the development of modern sewage infrastructure in all cities on a priority basis. While plastic bags have been banned but still, they are in use everywhere. It is necessary to crackdown at these manufacturing industries which degrade environment while making the product at well as at the time of disposal. More public toilets and dustbins must be put in place. The program shall start from individual level (keeping your waste with yourself and not throwing it at any place except dustbins or requisite place) as well as household level (segregation of waste). Moving towards a city/town concept that places more emphasis on planned growth even with regard to ghettos and providing better services with regard to water, infrastructure in these places with pucca houses can only usher in a sanitized India and Indians. 


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