It has always been a wonder to most people about why India cannot be a ‘clean’ country. I do not have Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on my mind when I say that. It goes deeper. It is about our behavior as responsible citizens in our own country.
While we talk about the waste strewn on the roads, do we even think for a moment about not littering our roads or our thoughtless action of throwing a chocolate wrapper on the road randomly?
The problem lies in assuming that “anything outside my territory is not of my concern”. We use public washrooms but do not flush. But, do we not flush when we use bathrooms at our house? We do. And, the same goes with people pissing, spitting and throwing anything on the roads. Would we dare to spit inside our houses? No, again.
If we cannot stay in an environment which is dirty, how can we expect others to just because of our senseless actions? The fact is that each one of us is aware of the rules. We know that dustbins exist; we are aware we have to follow traffic rules for our own safety; we know that we have to stand in queues. But, our egos get in the way and the moment someone questions us, we over-react.
What we lack is civil behavior. Civil behaviour requires a mindset change – the way we perceive things has to change. Civility also plays a crucial role in the development of a nation. The more civil we are, the more developed our nation is.
We have seen the tragic stampede in Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh during the Godavari Maha Pushkaram. It is unfortunate that we lost around 28 lives.
However, the incident teaches us lessons in civil behavior. 1) To follow instructions and think for a moment whether we want to risk our own safety. 2) Understand why we are there and whether fighting to be the first one in the race will bless us more than our fellow pilgrims. 3) Does devotion mean throwing, pushing fellow pilgrims? 4) Does devotion not teach you that you need to also think about others? 5) Does devotion mean littering or spoiling the environment? 6) Is it not advisable for you to over-crowded places when you have your children and old parents in your company?
After all that, people conveniently blame the government. While the incident brought out the loopholes of the government, it also highlights the public’s apathy towards their own safety.
In our country, we always look at blaming someone for our problems. If there’s a traffic jam, blame the police; if there’s waste on roads, blame the sanitation workers.
We never think about solutions. We do not want to follow rules but we are ready to blame if anything goes wrong (even if that includes violation of rules by us). Our dependency on others for our work is quite high in this country.
During Rajahmundry’s stampede, instead of blaming the government, locals could’ve taken charge of the situation as volunteers if there was any civic sense in the first place. This “herd mentality” has done a lot of damage to India.
We stand and stare at a person in trouble, but do we approach him/her and find out what happened? Do we at least pick up the wooden block on the road that is causing traffic congestion?
While strict enforcement is one side of the coin, what we need to do is to be enforcers of those laws.
We do not have to live in a society that’s unclean forever. We do not want someone else to die on the road just because we showed the wrong indicator. What we need to be are responsible citizens, owning up our actions.
We can start through better parenting where we teach our kids that it is “not okay” to throw trash on the roads or anywhere except in trash cans. If there’s one thing our education has to teach us, it is civil and social behavior.
And, the only way to do it is to lead by example. And, there’s no shame in it.