Thursday, October 2, 2014

My emotions - Swatchch Bharat

Today my wife and children joined 40 other like minded adults and little ones to clean the dirty streets and the village surroundings at Nagenahalli-Harohalli in Yelahanka, Bangalore, India - where our most modern apartment complex Sobha Althea-Azalea is located.  Even though it was a fulfilling experience the whole experience marked a deep ambivalence in me of being happy and sad at the same time.

Why was I happy?

  • It was a special day for India due to the birthday of our own Father of the Nation who always promoted cleanliness - equated cleanliness to godliness.  He was a great role model for the entire world and always led by example.  He went about cleaning toilets on those days and building a deeper awareness among across the society.
  • I was able to play a very small role in the vision set by our prime minister Mr. Modi to see a cleaner India through the "Swatchh Bharat Mission".  Mr. Modi is a passionate leader and I salute him for the courage in picking this dirty topic and making an attempt to bring a paradigm change in this country.  There is a nationwide trigger for this mission.  I was fortunate to join many residents from my apartment complex to clean the surroundings, pick paper, plastic, bottles, tetra packs, candy packages, milk plastic covers, used bags, tires, foot wears finally clearing clogged rain water drenches.  All that we needed was a pair of surgical gloves, few sacks and a great attitude to do this.
  • I was able to go around the village and interact with the villagers to bring in awareness to keep their home and surroundings clean.  
  • After about an hour, I had realized that we were not alone; a group of enthusiastic, organized and disciplined RSS volunteers (children and adults) joined us to clear the muck and garbage, stopped every single passerby, politely asking them to join the cleanliness drive.  The best moment was when I interacted with their leader; he assured and showed a lot of interest in repeating this frequently through community collaboration.
  • The best one was when I was forced (a planned one by my friends? :)) into providing a speech at the village school about cleanliness and garbage segregation.  I was fortunate to deliver this in a little funny way to a bunch of wide eyed young school children.  I was able to impress them to bring in a change in their home - "not to mix wet and dry garbage" - through my garbled Kannada.  I was lucky this time to get an easy topic something that I've learnt (and practicing) through the green initiative drive in our residentialcomplex. When we departed every child repeated after me "from now on two bins at our home".  I've realized that this reinforcement must continue to educate them to segregate further.
Why I felt sad?

  • It all started with a small conversation in the morning near the railway signal next to my residence.  I was the first one to reach the railway cross where this Swachh Bharat drive was about to be flagged off by the local MLA.  I met the man who guards the railway gate and said hello to him and asked him if we was aware of the local MLA's visit.  He denied any knowledge and asked me what the special occasion was.  After briefly explaining him I said there were going to be people gathering in a short while to clean the village streets and also educate the villagers.  His response shocked me and made me sad.   He said,  "Sir, my surrounding is already clean.....and why to worry about the streets?"  
  • All of us know that garbage pile is a serious environment issue, an eyesore, something that has already tarnished the image of the nation and is an embarrassment to all Indians whenever we take around our foreign friends and colleagues.  
  • Such a mission appears to me as just a Band-Aid to a deep rooted problem. I'm might sound pessimistic here but this is the reality.  It’s a shame that we need a mission like this to change the country and its image.  How is this different from fighting obesity due to poor life style through medication but not fixing the ways to lead a healthy lifestyle?
  • Even after so many years of shouting and screaming by all the social workers and government bodies, placing public messages for not throwing garbage, keeping warning signs, placing garbage bins - people continue to do what they are comfortable with.  It’s common to see many apartment dwellers living in the higher floors throwing bags of garbage from their windows (they even choose to do this during the night times in fear of being caught).   I've seen people throwing used diapers, garbage, cigarette packets and buds outside of their moving cars into roads and rivers. It doesn't matter whether the people in the car are educated or not; rich or poor - I'm surprised by this irresponsible, idiotic and callous attitude.
Can this situation improve? 
What transformation a mass cleaning effort like this, executed across the Indian continent, on one single day alone can bring to the entire nation?
What is root of this problem? 

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