Random Musings: Some Swachh Thoughts
In a new column Vishnu R G cautions that future generations are waiting to learn from us. It is time citizens take up local problems and try to solve them.
On Feb 19, 2016


These are times of debate and discussion, where any random topic is a bone of contention. Nurtured by social media, adopted by mainstream media and weighed upon by the opinion of many “knowledgeable”, every single event is viewed through a magnifying glass and seen based on its virtual enormity. Good or bad, real or fake, worth attention or not, they are portrayed as the social opinion and stays in the public domain until another news lays the trap.
Yes, it is getting harder to differentiate truth from lies. Some refer to it as the changing times, transparency and freedom of expression… and No, for this content I am not referring to the potpourri of news that is all over the place. While we reserve that part of the discussion for some other time, these thoughts are as simple as the name indicates, all about the cleanliness drive!
Most thoughts, however much we refer to them as random, have their base set somewhere… There is a very beautiful park, blessed with natural serenity, located at some distance from my neighbourhood. The roads leading to the place were so engaging to make people feel like visiting it time and again. During one such journey, I realised that there was a pile of waste that had accumulated on the way. It just kept growing, eventually turning out to be a dump yard, emanating nasty odour all over. This was the first memory that crossed my mind when I heard the “Swachh” campaign on FM today. The pertinent question that struck me was – Are we really prepared to take cleanliness seriously? Who is to be blamed for this mess?
Neither our administration nor the citizen seems to have a clear view towards cleanliness – the ask and the need. While the administration for most part looks confused on what to do and how to approach, the citizens are waiting. The much needed long term vision is lacking in its entirety and is run over by immediate considerations. Beyond the larger waste management problem, even the basic issues with regard to hygiene remains open. The idea of building something big by laying a proper foundation is getting immersed within the noise and stink that dominate the air.

While there is a lot that we expect from the administration to solve and a lot is left to be desired, aren’t we (citizens) equally responsible for the mess? Have we ever thought about the citizen’s charter? There could be “x” number of reasons why something is inadvertently misplaced, “y” number of reasons on why we cannot do that and “z” number of reasons on why that is never our problem – but to secure a healthy system there can be only one sane vision, even if it is converging from different viewpoints. Cleanliness as a topic when it is articulated in any public domain attracts a lot of likes and positive comments because everyone agrees that hygiene is not a choice anymore. Still the difficult spot continues to remain when the individual waits for society to solve the problem, without realizing the collective nature of social thinking and the required contributions through ideas, innovation, thoughts and above all, actions!

Statistics available with Suchitwa Mission and other credible entities reveal that there has been a significant increase in the municipal solid waste (MSW) generation particularly because of the increased trend of urbanisation, changes in consumption pattern and social behaviour. It always takes a rude reminder to act, which in this case comes in the form of public health hazards due to the improper handling of waste management. It is also deemed as one of the reasons for increase in stray dog attack incidents where the accumulated waste serves as the feeding base. Even though the global citizen is more of a reality today, man for most part has not grown beyond the boundaries of his household. The same thought applies for waste management as well. Throw somewhere but not in my home… That seems to be the simple mantra!

The other day, one of my friends was saying that there is a huge dumping ground created in someone’s property, just because it was an open area. The local vigil had revealed that for most part even the elites and educated coming in BMWs were also spotted discarding waste.. After all, we just need to keep our home clean and we are on it! We purposefully forget that for a social animal like us, the neighbourhood is a key aspect of healthy social living.

There are citizens who are trying to address this problem as well. Multiple research programs are in progress on enhancing the effectiveness of waste management by appropriate categorisation, segregation and methods of disposal. Individuals, groups, NGOs and residential associations are spearheading campaigns and measures for waste collection and disposal through multiple sources. Municipalities and corporations are also working on different schemes to address the problem. By far, the concept of segregation at source seem to be one of the key approaches along with maximum possibility of disposal at source itself. This keeps the individual at the core of the problem as well as the solution to identify the best possible ways of waste management – right from generation to disposal. With the same unity that we spearhead social media campaigns on every relevant and irrelevant topic, isn’t it high time that topics like hygiene and cleanliness also get the same attention with less smog and more content? There is a future generation waiting to learn from us or in some instances to show us the way. It is high time that this is realised as a problem that each one of us needs to address!

Vishnu is from Trivandrum, works with a leading MNC and is an avid reader with a passion for literature and arts.

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