Nothing pains me more than garbage strewn along roads. As if casually by walking past I have dotted my streets with the garbage from my home. It is indeed a very painful thing to walk along streets which smell and look dirty at the same time. We Indians have mastered the art of doing just that! We have amazing resilience to stench and visually disheartening streets. Its the pollution that we are all responsible for but no one feels responsible for it.
I see people of all classes in India with little civic sense. Not that we Indians have no sense of beauty or cleanliness. We are very clean people. We do not venture out without a bath. Our homes are cleaned everyday sometimes twice a day. Air inside our home is purified with burning incense and dhoop sticks. Our homes have neatly kept courtyards, which are swept and sprayed with water (to reduce the air borne dust). Yet our garbage finds its way just outside our homes, as if it is the job of someone else to collect our waste and take it else where. Callousness marks are attitude about garbage. Garbage is considered ‘ashudh’ in hindi i.e unclean. Hence needs to be kept away from our immediate surroundings. Hence our entire cleanliness routine is based on the above. When we are within our homes, everything is neat and clean, but just outside lies our own garbage, that is so paradoxical. Hence Indians ensure that they clean their feet when they come back from a visit outside their homes. The outside shoes are not worn inside the house and vice-versa. We do not consider our cities as our own homes, we Indians are pretty selfish in this respect. It is painful however to even acknowledge this fact. We are so paranoid about garbage that we cannot bear to hold even a small piece of Lays packet that our child has eaten outside. We discard the piece as if it is so heavy that it cannot be carried with us to be disposed properly.
The fact that waste management is the least in the minds of people is borne testimony by the fact that no thought is given to waste management while designing even the best of buildings. India Inc. has no time or thought for garbage. Waste is always an afterthought to be handled when it arises. To be dumped into land without a thought. Hopefully things are changing and builders and town planners are giving thought to waste management.
Municipalities struggle with keeping the cities clean and waste collected is often burned (contributing to air pollution and toxic fumes and GHG gas emissions). Where the west differs from the Indian thought process is that they consider their towns to be their own. Hence everything is clean, homes as well as their towns. There is no distinction in which shoes are to be worn inside the house or outside.
Its time Indians change their perception towards garbage and give thought to proper and thoughtful disposal of waste.
For those who are not aware our country has waste management handling and disposal rules which were passed in 2000.
There are fines spelled out for littering and improper disposal of waste. However these are not strictly imposed anywhere in the country. There are however few states in India which have done a good job of waste management. One of them is Goa.
There is a lot of technology available to handle and manage waste. Only will and people’s cooperation will ensure that we clean up our towns and cities. I wonder why we feel insulted when Mumbai was shown as a dirty pigsty in Slumdog Millionare. It is the truth and its time we accept it. Acceptance that we Indians love to litter and that this litter bug tendency transcends all classes.
Just like my domestic help puts it “why should I bother when everyone else does the same thing”. Like a goldfish I looked at her…wondering what could be done to increase the levels of awareness amongst one and all. Just the other day I took my soon to a store and got him a box of chocolates. Two other kids bought the same thing. Within minutes the chocolates were devoured. My son held onto his box and showed me the other two on the shop floor carelessly thrown by the kids(their parents were with them neither set of parents told their child not to litter). I was appalled, the shopkeeper smiled and said people do it all the time. Never mind, garbage is just a small thing…Indians just don’t have time for garbage! Truly Indians live in beautiful homes and dirty cities.
Watch this wonderful film by Parasher Barua. It deals with the lives of people in Dharavi who recycle waste thrown away by us. Dharavi recycling is an unaided, enterprise by the ever resourceful people of Dharavi.