We Are Not Just Corrupt, Dirty Too

IN A BLOG POST a few weeks ago, I had wondered if India, where government jobs are sought for “extra earnings” and where we try to bribe even God with ‘offerings’, is corrupt as a country.

The seizure of huge amounts of cash during the recent elections, especially in Karnataka which acquired notoriety as one of the most corrupt states, as well as the other foul means used by all parties to get votes and the large number of raids by Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate and other agencies, has provided the obvious answer. All political leaders swear to fight it. Most of them practice it – monetary or of other types

There is no social stigma attached to corruption and just laws and politically-controlled government departments cannot ensure a society free of corruption. What is legal is not always ethical. Ethics are bound, not by laws but by social norms and character which our education system and culture have failed to promote.

They have also failed to promote cleanliness. We are not only corrupt but dirty too. When, after 70 years of ‘independence’ a leader called for eradication of corruption and a ‘Swaccha Bharat’ (Clean India) he has been subjected to ridicule. All political parties, which opposed these drives, have ganged up against him.

For decades under Congress rule, some parks on traffic-islands and road sides had been given to corporate firms to maintain and thereby get publicity. Vandalism at heritage monuments has been a problem for decades, but nothing more than mouthing platitudes has been done. When, however, the Prime Minister launched an “Adopt Heritage” scheme for maintenance of such monuments by the corporate sector, he has been accused of “selling the Red Fort” to the Dalmia group which adopted that historic monument along with the Gandipet Fort in Andhra Pradesh for five yeaes.

The Archaeological Society of India (ASI) which maintains these monuments does not have adequate manpower and budget to maintain them declared recently that a clean-up of the Red Fort, which is visited by several thousand people every month, has yielded 22 lakh (hundred thousand) kilos of dirt from its terraces alone. And all around the fort are places anything but clean.

Recently the Maharashtra Government was the latest to ban thin plastic carry bags. As many as 25 states in the country have imposed such ban, but the implementation is so ill-planned, tardy and half-hearted that the ban is mostly on paper. After the ban Maharashtra collected several thousand tons of plastic waste and many times more remains in villages, cluttering roadsides and clogging up drains to cause flooding in the coming monsoon.

Taking a daily five-km morning walk in villages on the outskirts of one of Maharashtra’s cities, I found unbelievable quantities of plastic waste strewn all over. Every sophisticated urban product reaches the villages too, as can be seen by the wrappers and bottles thrown around. Go for a morning walk in Bangalore’s posh Raj Mahal Vilas, New BEL Road or Sanjay Nagar main road – none of these ‘posh’ areas has even a 10-meter stretch of good footpath – and you will be appalled by the amount of filth thrown on the roadsides by the shops and houses. This is true of every Indian city, town or village.

Why can’t we make a habit of collecting dry and wet waste separately and handing it over to the municipal garbage collectors? When I see the obsession with cleanliness of some of my family members who carry small bags with them everywhere and ensure that not even a toffee wrapper is thrown on the street, I wonder why this cannot be taught to everyone. Returning home after visiting or shopping, the first thing done by them is to put the contents of those bads in the trash cans.

A video widely circulated on social media was of a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) who saw a rich businessman throw some trash into a drain in Ahmedabad, caught him and made him go into the drain and bring back the trash to put it in a bin. Of course many will point out that most roads do not have such trash bins and that waste from dump yards is not cleared for days. Those pointing out this never demanded an explanation from the corporator or municipal councilor of their ward. They would not know who he/she is. For they never vote.

If you are an Indian students in the USA one of the earliest experiences of “culture shock” comes when some teacher or fellow student tells you that you are “dirty” and “stink” of curry. If you stay in any city of the Bay Area of the US you must be very careful about waste segregation or you will find your overflowing trash bin at your front door accompanied by a note that it was being rejected, with the whole neighborhood scorning you.

With all our brahminical obsession with being ‘chaste’ (pavitr) and clean and Gandhian quotes that cleanliness is godliness, we are a dirty country. All the sins of Narendra Modi – real and imagined – can be forgiven for his ‘Swacch Bharat’ drive alone, but the filth that accumulated for 70 years cannot be cleared in five years.

At least he has made a beginning.

IN A BLOG POST a few weeks ago I wondered if India, where government jobs are sought for “extra earnings” and where we try to bribe even God with ‘offerings’, is corrupt as a country.

The seizure of huge amounts of cash during the recent elections, especially in Karnataka which acquired notoriety as one of the most corrupt states, as well as the other foul means used by all parties to get votes and the large number of raids by Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate and other agencies, has provided the obvious answer. All political leaders swear to fight it. Most of them practice it – monetary or of other types

There is no social stigma attached to corruption and just laws and politically-controlled government departments cannot ensure a society free of corruption. What is legal is not always ethical. Ethics are bound, not by laws but by social norms and character which our education system and culture have failed to promote.

They have also failed to promote cleanliness. We are not only corrupt but dirty too. When, after 70 years of ‘independence’ a leader called for eradication of corruption and a ‘Swaccha Bharat’ (Clean India) he has been subjected to ridicule. All political parties, which opposed these drives, have ganged up against him.

For decades under Congress rule, some parks on traffic-islands and road sides had been given to corporate firms to maintain and thereby get publicity. Vandalism at heritage monuments has been a problem for decades, but nothing more than mouthing platitudes has been done. When, however, the Prime Minister launched an “Adopt Heritage” scheme for maintenance of such monuments by the corporate sector, he has been accused of “selling the Red Fort” to the Dalmia group which adopted that historic monument along with the Gandipet Fort in Andhra Pradesh for five yeaes.

The Archaeological Society of India (ASI) which maintains these monuments does not have adequate manpower and budget to maintain them declared recently that a clean-up of the Red Fort, which is visited by several thousand people every month, has yielded 22 lakh (hundred thousand) kilos of dirt from its terraces alone. And all around the fort are places anything but clean.

Recently the Maharashtra Government was the latest to ban thin plastic carry bags. As many as 25 states in the country have imposed such ban, but the implementation is so ill-planned, tardy and half-hearted that the ban is mostly on paper. After the ban Maharashtra collected several thousand tons of plastic waste and many times more remains in villages, cluttering roadsides and clogging up drains to cause flooding in the coming monsoon.

Taking a daily five-km morning walk in villages on the outskirts of one of Maharashtra’s cities, I found unbelievable quantities of plastic waste strewn all over. Every sophisticated urban product reaches the villages too, as can be seen by the wrappers and bottles thrown around. Go for a morning walk in Bangalore’s posh Raj Mahal Vilas, New BEL Road or Sanjay Nagar main road – none of these ‘posh’ areas has even a 10-meter stretch of good footpath – and you will be appalled by the amount of filth thrown on the roadsides by the shops and houses. This is true of every Indian city, town or village.

Why can’t we make a habit of collecting dry and wet waste separately and handing it over to the municipal garbage collectors? When I see the obsession with cleanliness of some of my family members who carry small bags with them everywhere and ensure that not even a toffee wrapper is thrown on the street, I wonder why this cannot be taught to everyone. Returning home after visiting or shopping, the first thing done by them is to put the contents of those bads in the trash cans.

A video widely circulated on social media was of a sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) who saw a rich businessman throw some trash into a drain in Ahmedabad, caught him and made him go into the drain and bring back the trash to put it in a bin. Of course many will point out that most roads do not have such trash bins and that waste from dump yards is not cleared for days. Those pointing out this never demanded an explanation from the corporator or municipal councilor of their ward. They would not know who he/she is. For they never vote.

If you are an Indian students in the USA one of the earliest experiences of “culture shock” comes when some teacher or fellow student tells you that you are “dirty” and “stink” of curry. If you stay in any city of the Bay Area of the US you must be very careful about waste segregation or you will find your overflowing trash bin at your front door accompanied by a note that it was being rejected, with the whole neighborhood scorning you.

With all our brahminical obsession with being ‘chaste’ (pavitr) and clean and Gandhian quotes that cleanliness is godliness, we are a dirty country. All the sins of Narendra Modi – real and imagined – can be forgiven for his ‘Swacch Bharat’ drive alone, but the filth that accumulated for 70 years cannot be cleared in five years.

At least he has made a beginning.

Published by

B. Someswar Rao

60 years of journalism, from the age of 16, and two books later, life has so much more to offer, there is no looking back. Not yet. Unstoppable after 70 is a simple expression of my thoughts, my triumphs, my failures and everything that makes this journey incredible. My books: - A TOWN CALLED PENURY- the changing culture of Indian journalism - JOURNALISM - Ethics, Codes, Laws Working on: - 'THE OUTHOUSE ON THE FIRST FLOOR - Coming of (Old)Age in India'

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