Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lack of Awareness About Cleanliness

When we look around our cities, what do we see ? You see crowds, you see moving traffic, and you may see some beautiful buildings or monuments. Bring your gaze down a bit to ground level, and what do you see? Broken plastic bottles, torn wrappers, stubs of cigarettes and the matches used to light them, polythene bags (some empty, some containing some waste), and assorted other stuff.

If you are lucky, the place you are currently in has been cleaned recently, and there is only a light smattering of filth on the ground. If this cleaning has not happened, there will be a pile of rubbish that you have to carefully tread you way through. And when it rains, this rubbish turns into muck, and emits all sort of smells.

How does all this rubbish get onto the ground? Take a deep breath, stay in the same place for around one hour and keep on watching people around you. You will see how this filth starts accumulating. People from passing vehicles will open the window and drop the remains of whatever they were consuming (eatables, something to drink, smoke, etc.) onto the road.

People sitting by the side will consume peanuts, and drop the shells, as well as the container where they are sitting. A passing dump truck will have the rear not fully closed and hence will keep on leaving a trail of rubbish behind it. A sweeper will have collected the rubbish at the side, and a gust of wind will disperse it initially and keep on dispersing it till it is fully spread all over.

The worst problem is that people you would expect to keep the place clean (or at least not dirty it further), do not cooperate as you would like. I recently went with a group of colleagues to lunch outside the office, and after the lunch, they bought a couple of flavoured mint packets to eat. Once they had finished eating, these were simply dropped onto the road.

I am used to dirtying the surroundings far less, and it was very shocking to see something like this happening. I picked these wrappers up and kept them in my pocket to dispose of later; but this shocked me to the extent that I was rendered speechless and was not able to properly instruct them about their duty. The only good point was that another colleague shared the same viewpoint about ensuring cleanliness, and this gave me a level of confidence.

Why do people do this ? The primary reason that I could see was that people play 'follow the leader'. There is already so much stuff that people can see on the road on a regular basis that nobody thinks twice about leaving more stuff on the road. If everything was spic and span and clean, then a lot of people would think twice about leaving stuff on the road. I also think that civic sense is lacking in a lot of people, and this maybe because even though they do know that they are contributing to dirtying up the place, it is not something that they actively think about.

One way to increase awareness is to target schools. One campaign that seems to be slowly working through using school children as a medium is the cracker-free diwali concept. It should be fairly simple (but time consuming) to inculcate the feeling of cleanliness in children, and they can work as active agents to shame people who dirty up their surroundings.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 8:17 PM