Swacch Bharat: India Is Dirty!

Swacch Bharat: How Clean Is India? 

We have heard people talk about this from the day 1 – The Swacch Bharat mission started to mark Gandhi Jayanti or even from the day of Modi’s Speech at Madison Garden. There was a hue and cry when he mentioned the idea of clean India and I guess I heard more naysayers than the ones who were excited by it.

It sure started with a greate gusto, the top names of Indian newspapers, televisions like Salman, Aamir were all over the news and the idea of tagging these movie superstars was indeed very smart by our PM. However that being said, there was another set of people who were making a huge list of reasons for why this project would be an utter flop. Some of them prefer to call it opposition :P. Well whoever they are, they were clear of one thing -It is never going to succeed in a country like India.

And what were the reasons given?

– There is no infrastructure, not enough dustbins or toilets

– People do not have civic sense, they urinate on roads, throw garbage wherever they like

– People spit where we walk

– Even if I clean it , someone else will dirty it. So.. Why bother!

– Someone else did it to MY STUFF. There was no one to stop them, why should I do it for someone else.

And here is a very clever video giving the various reason as to why India can never be a clean country. If these people were given the bible or the Bhagawadgita, I am sure they would have sworn by it to say that it is never going to happen.

Truth is – I agree, I agree that it is never going to happen. And the reason is not that people are insensitive, it is because of these people who discourage the ones who actually want to do it.

My first question to any project is this :

1)  What do you do to ensure that it is followed? 

Why should someone do a good deed? I agree that it is a great feeling to do a good job and I would feel great doing it once in a while. But if you want me to do it continuously, it becomes a chore. How would you encourage someone to take a new step and keep taking it consistently.

The technical term says “Positive Reinforcement”. I would rather call it the simple reward and punish mechanism. How do you reward these good people? And I do not mean money, this is a small responsibility, but I would really like to be appreciated for taking it. Here are a few ways you/I can reinforce this behaviour

– A simple thank you or a smile when you see someone doing the right thing

– We have all these celebrities cleaning the streets and I do understand that they are busy. How about a signed card from these celebrities, nothing extravagant, just a simple card which says Thank you for making this a better place! Let there be a slight competition.

– It need not be a permanent measure, it can be a simple, easy positive reinforcement which keeps people ticking

2) The punishments. 

The same people when they are in US / UK do not spit on the roads, nor do they urinate in public places! Why?

Cos people look down upon them, they call the cops on them, they levy fines on them.

Why can’t we do that here? And with the way the govt exchequer is spending money on new projects, I am sure we can use the extra money gathered from this to make more toilets or install more dustbins

How about moral policing? We have seen the so called brands who shout at women for wearing short skirts! Where are they when it comes to more sensible issues?

How about us, maybe we can raise our voices against these perpetrators. Maybe for once, we can stop complaining and do something about it. We all need not be Gandhis but we sure can be responsible people and if we do not make the change happen, then I doubt if any govt is ever going to do that for us!

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  1. Even raising our voice won’t work always. There are people who think that such activities like spitting on walls, urinating anywhere or littering around are their birthright ! I witnessed an incident a few months back. Someone painted the wall red with his spit ( was chewing gutkha)..another one protested and the perpetrator boldly began to argue…even used abusive language. Then we joined the protest…me and a few other people and he finally murmured ‘sorry’ . But I’m sure he would repeat the same thing again. Mind set need to be changed and severe fine should be imposed.

    • True Maniparna. I have tried it with a few of my closest friends and relatives too. They have a completely different theory about it – not a responsible one – kinda callous one. They say that the entire country is never going to be clean and if I don’t dirty the place someone else will and they seem to be quite satisfied with that reasoning.

      It is like voting – the country is so large that one vote of mine does not count. And if everyone thinks that way, then there is no way out at all. It is kind of a deadlock!

      I agree Maniparna, it is in that basic mindset and I strongly feel that a few fines and punishments are in order for this. Everything will fall into place..

  2. HNY Vinay ! Too busy to comment but I read all the posts:) … Well said. Yes the positive reinforcement is necessary in form of human involvement but it has to be self inspired…. By shame or force they’ll listen once but will do again due to habit… And to change a habit, punishment and lecture both have to go hand-in-hand ….if after much uproar moral policing IS going on… Then it will too .. Yes certain things need dictatorship.

    • Happy new year Kokila. Wishing your dreams to come true this year :)..

      Thank you! I think it is about time we start rewarding the people who do right and punishing the ones who do wrong – the old carrot and stick approach to governance. But alas that seems like a theoretical aspect these days, maybe too difficult to implement in a large country in India. But maybe communal governance can come into play here – civil governance where people take up the smaller responsibilities and we are able to imbue that to the commonest citizen. I am sure there is a way out but I am not sure who is or who is not motivated enough to make that happen!

  3. Nice post Vinay, I too believe that there is no such infrastructure over here, while the ideal way to run this yojana should be to first develop the infrastructure. You will be surprised to know that one day we were going through CP which is considered as the heart of Delhi NCR, and we were eating oranges. We kept all the garbage in the polythene bag, but found no place to dump the bag. In some areas we can found out some washrooms, but at many metro stations too you won’t get a washroom. Even some washrooms at some prestigious metro stations are closed at around 8 PM. Even you will be surprised to hear that once we had some issue at our place and we went out to search washrooms, and we found every washrooms are locked, and it is written there that it remains open from 6 AM to 10 PM only, do you think that washrooms should remain open in shifts?

    So the success of such abhiyans depends on how well you can develop the infrastructure, though it is also true that many of the ministers and so called Neta’s are simply participating it in for clicking pictures for media only.

    • I agree Alok. I think this too is a vicious circle – no infrastructure to follow the rules, no mechanisms to ensure that rules are followed and ergo no rules. Kinda self sustaining circle of incompetence. I too have wished so many times that there was a public dustbin or a washroom. And the ones that are out there are absolutely disgusting and makes you wonder why it was built in the first place.

      Funny that you mention about CP. I had a similar experience when I was in Delhi. I used to go 3-4 blocks to find a dustbin and the only ones I could find were the ones near Metro. it seemed that it was the only different world where people seemed civil all of a sudden. My point is – that too is the same country and this too is the same one. Why such a huge difference between the two? The dynamics of governance sure are baffling..

  4. Here are my two cents. First Modi alone cannot clean India. But he is the first prime minister in my conscious life who has raised the issue from the roof top. Prime minister should identify, other minister, bureaucrats should implement. Citizens can do their part by not unnecessarily dirtying the place by spitting, loitering etc. It is true the task is humongus. It needs infrastructure, education and implementation.

    • True Abhijit, I think no one alone can clean the country, it has to be a collective responsibility of us – the citizens to follow certain inititatives. I have lot of respect for Modi as a PM and he has rosen to the level of a leader. But at the same time, the citizens should meet him half way, show him that they are worthy of being led towards progress. It has to be a well oiled machine to make it all work and I think the true start starts from the citizens and then we can impose it on the bureaucrats as well. As we know bureaucracy takes a lot more time to move than the aam junta 🙂

  5. The same people when they are in US / UK do not spit on the roads, nor do they urinate in public places! Why? This becomes mentality that India is dustbin and you can throw spit as much u can.

    • Yes Yogi, unfortunately that can also be the image of the country in their minds. But I think it is easy for them to ignore responsibilities since there is no one to impose it on them. I agree that a western culture would train them not to spit on the roads. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more civil than us. They are just trained that way and in the end it is people everywhere right, it sure can be implemented with a little motivation..