When gods share space with garbage
Whoever said cleanliness is next to godliness forgot to specify the importance of inverse of this Osho idiom and would not have predicted the poor state of all religious and sacred places in and around Delhi during the onset of festivities. To begin with, I would like to question our religious sanctity and sacredness which takes a back seat while we are busy preparing ways to impress Gods, little realising the harm done to nature and surroundings.
The famous religious centres of Delhi are Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, Kalkaji Mandir and Hanuman Mandir to name a few amongst many. Now, the fact to be brought at fore is all these places are the biggest dumping grounds of garbage and waste after all sorts of rituals practiced by the people at large. To add to the plight, they turn into highly sensitive areas for crime to perpetrate and occur.
Kalkaji Mandir, located on the outer Ring Road lists as one of the most popular temples in the national Capital whose divinity is considered most supreme. The Gods are fed and offered the best of every votive little realising that they are left to accompany the best of garbage at the end of such rituals and practices.
'There are lakhs of devotees who visit the temple during navratras and festival time. Throwing away the garbage is a regular feature with each one of them. When it continues for days, the waste piles up and results in dirty surroundings. In my view, it is not solely the responsibility of the MCD to keep it clean rather the real challenge is in making the people understand their civic and moral responsibilities too. We will perform our religious duties to the fullest but forget to follow our social dharam of cleanliness,’ says Satish Upadhayay, Chairman, Standing Committee, South MCD.
'Since officially we are required to carry out our job, we often deploy special task force with extra logistics along with the mandir administration to make sure the waste and garbage is properly disposed off. But there is a huge need for self education and orientation to keep our religious places clean after any ritual,' he added.
'Our culture is a mix of emotions and ostentation when it comes to religion. Everyone resorts to various methods of offering the Gods in a race to be better than the other. The feature is regular across all religious places, be it temples, churches or gurudwaras. Will you believe that we have all festival dates marked on our calendars in order to prepare and gear ourselves for the upcoming brunt that we as an organisation would face? There is a marked increase of around 10-20 per cent of waste after any festival in the premises of Hanuman Mandir.
It then becomes our routine duty to check if our transport and staff facilities are adequate to take care of the after effects. Daily, thousands of devotees throng the temple and the number rises to lakhs during festivals. If only the public can be educated enough to understand and realise to cooperate with us and each one take a personal responsibility not to throw away garbage here and there. If every kind of waste which mainly includes disposed plates, pattals and food items can be put at one common point, then our job becomes much easier,’ says Dr P K Sharma, Director, MHO. Apart from the health plight, these shrines also turn into breeding grounds for high criminal activities. As per the data maintained with Delhi police, the religious places in the national capital are much safer than any other tourist spots.
Millennium Post visited the concerned police stations of the prominent religious places like Kalkaji Mandir in south-east Delhi, Hanuman Mandir and Bangla Sahib in Connaught Place, Purana Hanuman Mandir in old Delhi as well. It has been learnt that the street crime including chain snatching, pick-pocketing remained on the peak when it comes to the crime rate near these prominent spots. 'For the past one and a half years, no major crime has been reported. Whenever there is a festival, we increase the police deployment inside and outside the religious places,’ a senior police official said.
When the reporter asked the concerned police official to share the exact crime rate near these places he refused to provide the data and added, 'It is not possible to pull out the data one by one from our record register. As each police station covers vast areas and crime occurs everywhere.'
These religious places are often visited by women along with their children. As a result, when it comes to crime against women, maximum number of calls to police control rooms are made regarding eve-teasing. However, when a police team reaches the spot, either the accused manages to escape or the victim does not wish to pursue the case by filing an FIR against him.
Traffic management is another major problem faced by Delhi police, especially during the festive season. 'Around thousands of devotees visit temples and to avoid traffic snarls on the busy roads near the temples, traffic police needs to deploy large number of officials. Several times, traffic routes are diverted to maintain smooth traffic,' a police official in traffic department added.
Apart from the crime related to devotees, the consumption of drugs is high near Hanuman Mandir complex. 'Large numbers of vagabonds, rag-pickers spend nights near the complex. They are regular drug addicts and need to earn Rs 30 per day to buy solvents that would last for at least two days.
On several occasions, they are apprehended. However, if they are caught and put behind bars, life becomes easy for them as they spend their days in protected confines of the jail, where they are provided food by the police. Along with food, we also provide them drugs sometimes if they demand; else they might just die in the lock-up, which might later be termed as custodial death. This becomes risky for us and thus, we avoid picking them up in the first place,’ a police official requesting anonymity said.