Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dreams of a clean India

Cleanliness begins at home. Only when we keep our home clean can we can extend that cleanliness to our surroundings. If each individual follows this policy, only then can an area be cleaned. Once  every locality is cleaned , the city/town will be cleaned. In the same way , districts will be cleaned and all districts combined together will help in keeping a state clean. Once all states are cleaned and they are all following the same protocol for maintaining cleanliness, an entire nation is clean. One attempt combined with a 1.27 billion population combined together will create an ocean of cleanliness around. Diseases will be at bay that arise due to unhygienic environment. Each individuals' efforts will multiply.

We can create a revolution by maintaining a clean environment and by following hygienic practices . This can act as an inspiration for the others as well as our own family members. In a country like India , where the population is on the rise constantly, it is difficult for the government to keep monitoring each area for cleanliness. The municipality employs workers to keep the area clean but this efforts goes into vain when they have to keep cleaning the same area again and again and keep removing the same accumulated garbage. If educated citizens like us try to throw garbage in a designated area it will become easy for the sweepers to clear off the garbage. Their work pressure will decrease. In this way they will be able to do more productive work in  a single man hour instead of cleaning just one small area. Only when we educated individuals behave in the right way can we create awareness among those who are not aware of the importance of maintaining cleanliness and sanitation around.

The question everyone would have is how to begin? It is a small step . There was a major step taken by the BBMP( Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike) in Bangalore late in the year 2012 when they insisted that everyone should separate wet waste and dry waste generated each day . There should be separate dustbins and wet waste, sanitary waste will be disposed daily whereas dry waste will be taken once in a week. No body was ready to follow it properly. BBMP went to the extent that if garbage is not disposed off according to these rules, the  garbage clearing people of the municipality will not pick up garbage. Eventually , the garbage started piling and the people living around got fed up. Finally there were social activists who along with some responsible citizens of the city started creating awareness. They taught people in the near by locality and asked everyone to spread the message. Slowly there was an improvement. BBMP started clearing garbage then. Everyone followed for a short while but slowly this weaned off. Now there isn't 100% compliance but there are people who are following this waste segregation method.

How long will a municipality monitor ???? The question here is that, why can't this initiative come from within?? That's when my husband and I decided to keep following this practice in our family whether anyone follows it or not. We have instructed our maid also to clear wet waste daily which we keep in a disposable cover in a closed dustbin. Our maid is also well aware of the cleanliness measures. She in turn helps in keeping the entire building clean. If we have someone to clean our house that doesn't mean we are at a liberty to keep the house dirty. We make sure we discard waste properly, keep no stagnated water in the house, use disinfectants to clean the floor and washrooms so that infection doesn't spread in the house. The regular domestic waste that is generated from each house in our apartment is kept stacked outside in dustbin covers with their mouth tied and handed over to the garbage picker. Just in case he is not available for the day, the building maid makes sure she disposes it off in the nearest garbage accumulation area where BBMP van can come and pick up the garbage daily. If no one is there to do this we ourselves do this job. Any kind of food waste is disposed off daily so that it doesn't attract mosquitoes. The staircase is cleaned once in a week and my neighbours have taught their children not to dirty them too .

I observed on one occasion that my neighbour's children were playing with the building maid's children. They were using rubber bands and plastic cups . After playing each one of them threw the crushed cups and rubber bands in the dustbin. Education in this form is commendable. One doesn't need to be highly qualified to follow such small measures. One must learn and spread the knowledge.

Hospital and hazardous waste should also be segregated accordingly so that those who clean them up do not contract an communicable infectious disease. Improper management of wastes generated in health care facilities can have direct health impacts on the community, the personnel working in health-care facilities, and on the environment. This can lead to people contracting diseases such as HBV, HCV and HIV.

In the same way, I made sure I teach some good habits to my maid's children who are going to school but because no one at home is well aware of cleanliness measures much they do not follow them always. I educated her too on the same. In this way she can maintain good hygienic practices at home as well as where she goes to work. The children of today are the future of tomorrow. They will be growing at the time when India will progress a lot. Their role is extremely important in making India a developed country which every country looks up to. They should be taught habits like washing hands before and after meals, before touching food and also when they come home after school so that they do not contract any infections. Children must be educated to use washrooms properly and to flush toilets after use. These are responsibilities of every individual, be it a child or a grown up. If we teach good to our children and ensure they practice the same, we can think of a good future.

Anyone who cooks in the kitchen should wash hands before and after cooking and also while serving food. Keeping the house dust free by wiping surfaces regularly so that the same dust does not stay in our hands and we do not contaminate others. Taking bath regularly , wearing clean clothes and washing them. In this way if everyone is maintaining overall personal hygiene it will spread cleanliness around. This should be done without wasting water because with the increasing population and decreasing water table level it is required to conserve the natural resource.

These are practices of hygiene that we follow at home, the same should reciprocate when we go out. We should not litter the surroundings also . So many times it has been noted the same person who is a cleanliness freak throws a used coffee cup or a chips wrapper from a moving bus on the road, throws on the sides of the road where pedestrians walk, throw paper and fruit peels on the footpath, spit in corners, urinate on walls, throw half eaten food on the road side just to feed the stray dogs. This attracts all kinds of friends like stray animals, mosquitoes, insects that are vectors of bacteria and viruses that can contaminate the food and water we consume from the same street. So, the infection that we give comes back to us in some way or the other. If every citizen starts feeling that the street where they are walking is just like their home, no one will dare to dirty the locality. 

In the same way, in some places the government has made free toilets for men and women- Sulabh Shauchalay and Pay and Use toilets also. They should be used for what they are meant. Even the Pay and Use toilets are not kept clean. At times, the staff there do not do their duty properly and sometimes it is 'WE'- the general public who dirty every place that is built for us. People do not flush, they spit around. We should think of one day , what if the government starts penalizing everyone who doesn't follow rules?? Just like other countries where citizens fear to break rules because the fine imposed is more than they can even afford. 

The economic status of the citizens here is not even up to the level to be imposed with a fine. All we can think of is creating awareness, educating and teaching citizens in a way where everyone works amiably towards the growth of a clean and developed nation. 

Practices as these should be carried out because environment polluted by inadequate treatment of waste can also cause indirect health effects to the community. The municipality has a major role in it. One such instance happened when I went for a walk with my husband to BTM Lake, Bangalore which is near our house. It is maintained by the municipality and also by Madiwala Lake association who help in providing boating as a recreational activity there. We were just amazed to see the way in which the lake had been maintained. We had to pay Rs 10/- per head for entering the walking track around the lake. There was a not a speck of dirt that was seen around. There were workers constantly involved in clearing off the waste accumulated by dried leaves and also clearing the dustbins. It is open for public on all days with specific timings. There is a small playground for children, there are seats made for people to sit. Eateries are also available and it is expected for people there to put the food waste into the dustbins. While we were enjoying the scenic beauty and also feeling proud of the fact that the municipality had taken the efforts to maintain such a beautiful lake, something happened that shattered all hopes. A so called "good looking educated Indian" came and suddenly threw a plastic cover full of dried flowers into this beautiful lake. He threw two plastics in succession. My husband went forward and asked him politely, " Why are you doing this? This is such a beautiful lake. Why are you spoiling it?"

He replied," They are puja(sacred ritual) flowers and need to be thrown in water. No one's feet should touch them."

"Even if they are flowers from a puja you could have put them in a corner of the tree and covered with mud. At least the soil will have some organic matter as a fertilizer why thrown them, that too with plastic into the clean lake," my husband asked him.

There was no reply from him for a moment. He said abashedly ," I won't do it again." 
Saying this, he walked as fast as he could. 

We looked around in order to inform some officials and get that plastic removed but it had floated quite far from our reach.Citizens like these are preventing our country from having a clean environment. 

BTM LAKE, Bangalore ( before the incident)

                                              BTM LAKE, Bangalore ( after the incident)

When there are citizens like these there are also organizations like the The Ugly Indians (TUI) , who are an anonymous group of motivated volunteers who clean Indian streets. Anyone can join them as a volunteer. No one reveals their identity outside. They just help in keeping the city clean. Their motto is "Kaam chalu mooh bandh. Stop Talking, Start Doing." 
They say : "If you want to Be the change you want to See, you need to first See the change you want to Be." 

We should all be that Ugly Indian who wants to keep his/her city/country clean. 

Blaming the system, blaming corrupt officials , blaming poverty,illiteracy will not do but it is an individuals' attitude that will make the difference. If we behave as responsible citizens by not throwing garbage on the footpath (just because it is outside our house), by not littering the roads, by not urinating in public, by maintaining hygienic practices at home and in the surrounding, educating others and creating a system without blame game, where there is only scope for improvement only then will our nation prosper.

Only when we do this can a government's attempt be successful to help build more toilets, help installing more dustbins, help employing workers so that waste gets cleared off easily, increases the birth rate and survival rate leading to reduced mortality rate. Diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, dengue, hepatitis will be kept at bay. This will automatically give rise to a healthy nation. When people are healthy and educated, they can help in making our country's economy strong. There will be no wealth drain only to cure infections. There will be more concentration on novel methods of technology advancements leading to more research and development. The entire nation will become strong. We will have more important aspects to deal with rather than mulling over topics like maintaining cleanliness. 

The system is bad but we can't keep expecting someone else to do the job when we are ourselves not in the right path.  Talking about the government, progress is happening. Change is slow but it will take place. All government officials responsible for ensuring sanitation and cleanliness around the city are slowing getting motivated to do their work properly.

Let us all join hands in welcoming and bringing about this change. It will be for our future where we can expect to stay back in our country instead of emigrating to other countries in search for cleanliness and hygiene. 

Let us all join the Cleanathon and fulfill our dreams of a Swachh Bharat :

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