Millennium Post

Your ‘rubbish’ and the law

World over Indians are famous for treating their most famous river, the tiller of the earth and its food giver, who they worship as mother, also as a large toilet and sanitation drain, believing that faith itself is enough to clean up the Ganges, or in cases, the Yamuna.  In a similar vein, they pile up streets with garbage and waste, sometimes on the sly and sometimes with appalling impunity, reasoning that homes must be cleaned at the cost of the street because someone there will clean them up the streets anyway and even if they don’t it’s not their matter. So cleaning up the street of an Indian city is a fabled mythology of urban governance. There have been endless efforts, both of persuasion and cajoling and in cases fine and punishment, but none seems to have worked. With their legendary habit of not changing their legendary habits, Indians have gone back to the old ways of littering once supervision, awareness or fines have been perceived to have been slackened.

Hence we are not too enthused with a new move to clean up Delhi, which is showing encouraging results though we would like to believe that this may be finally an answer to the unchanging gene of the litterbug that most Indian inevitably carry. As reported, in six months since their creation, the North and East Municipal Corporations in Delhi have fined 28,000 and 10,000 residents respectively for violating public places with litter and rubbish. As per the law, fines could be imposed for littering, urinating, spitting and throwing construction waste on the road, the last attracting maximum penalty of up to Rs 3,000 per violation. Other violations cost Rs 500 and the two corporations together have collected Rs 3 crore as additional revenue for the municipal bodies. They have claimed that challaning the hawkers and shopkeepers have particularly helped in the reduction of litterbugs.

This is a welcome development. But more needs to be done to calculate a sense of citizen culture among Indians in general and Delhi in particular. Delhi is that kind of a city in which the rich happily violate road norms, pay the fine and move along, realising little that penalties should be also seen as a lesson to not repeat the offence but few would value that thinking. So though supervision of the roads and collection of fines have been a boon for the civic coffers, the municipal bodies should do more to keep the city clean. There is generally nothing called an urban civic culture in India – be it litter, noise, visual pollution, parking, honking  etc. if penalising is one way of controlling this lack, so be it. Another incentive for municipal bodies could be that this is welcome additional revenue and something worth chasing.
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