Friday, April 15, 2016

A Dream Called Clean Pune !

“You have a responsibility to keep your homes, surroundings and city clean.” … Lailah Gifty Akita

Lailah Gifty Akita is a Ghanaian and founder of Smart Youth Volunteers Foundation. She obtained a BSc in Renewable Natural Resources Management at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi-Ghana. She also had MPhil in Oceanography at the University of Ghana. She obtained a doctorate in Geosciences at International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles-Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, Germany (June 2011 to March 2016). Lailah is an influential lady with the passion of empowering the mind of young people to make a great difference.  She is author of “Think Great”, an inspiring book for everyone! And yes her above quote is an eye opener especially we so called Smart Punekars!

As usual after news paper Sakal run a story about dead rivers in city, a cleaning drive has been announced by all political parties as well our local bodies & at the same time there was  “Anti Spiting Drive”, rather the  “Anti Spitting Day” also got declared! That’s just great, as if now we need to tell people don’t spit around then what we should teach next? Don’t urinate around or use your own home toilets only for daily rituals! This city & its citizens always amaze me with their dual attitude. When it comes to individual homes then we are so fussy that no housing society wants a public toilet or garbage bins in front or even near their building. But these very same citizens just don’t care while spitting  120/300 paan or throwing their beer cans around on road! Recently one of flat holder in my building Mr. Anand Sontakke, a decent  IT guy who unfortunately resides on first floor has wrote a letter to all the society members, telling somebody from upper flat holders throws cigarette butts in his terrace at night & he has also added that people throws every sort of thrash including empty shampoo bottles to used shaving blades in the ducts which actually are supposed to be there for just carrying drainage lines & ventilation! Well ours is so called upper class residence & here a flat holder himself has to write a letter about cleanliness to the neighbors, what kind of educated society we are & these very same people writes letter in news paper against over flowing dustbins as “jagruk nagrik”!

Every morning PMC’s garbage collecting truck comes to our society & the man on the truck gives a nice smile to me & trust me that’s the worst ever job you can imagine! All day long you have to sit on hip of a garbage which stinks leave apart danger of getting caught by any disease, how many of us can do it & on top of it  remain smiling, I wonder what kind of man that guy is! I try by myself to make wet & dry garbage segregate & keep the garbage wrapped as neat as I can or at least has instructed to family members as well our house maids & yet what happens at society door is everything gets mixed & the poor fellow on the truck has to segregate the garbage by his bare hands!

Then I regularly come across a sweeper who in the morning hours cleans the foot-paths which are covered with not just dust but dog poop, cow dung & every such thing which will make us impossible to walk on it without getting our shoes dirty. And this sweeper fellow silently like a zombie is cleaning the footpath by whatever equipment's he has & many a times with bare hands as he even don’t have decent rubber gloves! (That reminds me to buy both these guys gloves at my own cost) On few meters ahead from my residence there is series of restaurants aligned & so are some paan pattis or cigarette shops (no English word here as English people don’t eat paan). All the time people are smoking around these joints & eating tobacco & coloring the footpaths at free of cost. I think tobacco chewing & paan eating is worst curse this country has. I remember somewhere reading about famous Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang who visited India hundreds of years back & has specifically mentioned Indian Men eating some kind of leafs & spitting blood! That time I was a kid & has laughed for poor understanding of Tsang about India but he was right its worst than blood as not just damaging aesthetics of the surrounding but in a way its killing your own systems by eating that poison. Agreed by Ayurweda some types of paan are good & digestive & help in maintaining body temperature cool by eating them but definitely Ayurwedas didn’t meant tobacco paan & on top of it spitting what you have ate all around!

More entertainment followed when our Hon Mayor gave final dead-line to PMC administration to remove illegal cutouts/banners or hording; though I wonder when it come to political people’s banners & cut outs whether the term legal exists at all! Well his own karykartas also wouldn't have taken it seriously, as firstly why you need to give a dead line to remove illegal hoardings, is the question a common citizen like me will ask. And then how hording are related to Clean Pune drive is another question some innocent may ask! I think for that we first have to understand definition of clean & aesthetics of the city. You move around any corner of the city & what you see is garbage-bins over flowing, all sort of  waste all around including food leftovers to beer cans & cigarette stubs & spitting markings coloring footpath, stinking public toilets & in addition to that cow dung! This is scene on ground leve & you look at sky & you see most ferociously ugly faces staring at you under the name of “Bhau, Anna, Saheb or Mahraj” from every corner of sky! Actually I always wonder many of these faces would be better placed at some police chowkis on their wanted board but anyways there they wouldn’t have got so many admirers! This is where a clean city is banner or hording free city too, as we are spoiling the look of our sky line with such hording!

Here I remember images from many countries I have been & especially Singapore as well USA which are extremely fussy about keeping public places clean. Near the Statue of Liberty in New York which is most visited public place, there is a board warning the visitors of fine $ 25,000 for throwing empty water bottles or cans around or in sea! That amount if converted in our currency becomes nearly Rs 18 lac, can you imagine that kind of fine, and it’s more than even accidental death claims in our country! And I am sure nobody dares to throw a water bottle even by mistake there as the administration team may it be police or local body will recover this amount or will put the person behind the bar for such offence! On this background I am tempting to make an application under right of information, that in Pune in last one year how many people has been punished for spitting on road or throwing garbage at public places? We have become so immune to these things that we have forgotten that its legal offence to make our surrounding dirty! As our definition of cleanliness is restricted to our four walls which we call home & we turn our blind eye towards any dirt outside our home!

I think solution lies in two things, making people aware & not just by news paper advertises or banners but by demonstration on streets. Take help of NGO’s, Corporate Companies staff, School Kids, College students & there has to be daily on road demonstrations as well appeal to those who makes surrounding dirty by any act may it be throwing garbage or spitting. At the same time let’s take an oath to vote to the candidates of the party which has least banners or hoardings of its so called leaders, lest spread this message publicly & role of media is vital in this. Our political leaders are afraid of only one thing & that is election, so let them know that we hate seeing theirs & their karyakartas faces through hoardings all the time! At the same time make the local elected ward members equally responsible for illegal hoarding as well bad conditions of public toilets & maintaining cleanliness in his or her ward! As when it’s their own interest for e.g. opening of any footpath or cycle track or underpass in the ward the very same members immediately intervene if their name isn’t mentioned saying it is their right as it’s their ward, so why not take responsibility of wrong doings also in their ward? As well take competition of best ward in the city & give more budget provision for the best maintained ward in budget!

And then at last comes the administration as their attitude towards the city & cleanliness is real matter of concern; they just don’t care or are afraid to takepanga with political parties or of public & think who cares when its matter of aesthetics of the city! Right from policeman to ward officers or staff of local body, should be given full authority to stop anybody who has been caught making public places dirty by his act & punish heavily so that no one will dare to do it again! Also see that the people who are doing odd jobs like cleaning roads as well public places must be given proper setup for doing the job & good salaries. Then we can make compulsory for establishments like road side eateries & paan/cigarette shops to keep their surrounding clean or else fine them heavily & even then their clientele keeps on making surrounding dirty then shut that joint off! And for that first all these govt personnel’s should understand keeping this city clean is very much part of their duty! 

Its real shame that we have to follow Anti Spitting Day type drive & citizens as well NGO’s has to bang doors of Courts for keeping city’s rivers clean! If at all we have any pride left in us as responsible citizen then this is the time to show it by our action, as one day the entire city will be hip of garbage & dirt & we only will be responsible to ruin our own future! Real problem is not garbage or spitting, real problem is our dirty attitude, is all I will conclude!


Sanjay Deshpande 

Sanjeevani Dev.

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