How many times in your life have you come across a question like ‘Aap log Hindustan se hain kya?’ in your own country? Most importantly, what deed of yours could have brought someone to walk up to you at 6:30 AM in the morning and question your identity as an Indian, in a friendly, non-threatening manner?
The answer is this – we were picking up garbage lying across Leisure Park, Faridabad.
Yes, this is the same garbage that we Indians litter around at public places, roads, sidewalks, open spaces, railway tracks, farms, mountains and countless number of spaces around the country. We were threatened by various agencies, organizations and corporations with hefty fines and punishments, but we never bothered. The likes of National Green Tribunal have been struggling with implementing laws on protection and conservation of nature, but we never bothered. In the end, the Swachh Bharat message to create a better looking, cleaner India made rounds of social media and hoardings on highways, yet, we never bothered.
Why are we so unaffected with our unclean surroundings? Why don’t empty packets of Lay’s, mineral water bottles, used polythene bags, torn sachets of chewing gum lying around our neighborhood, bother us?
A ‘great’ example to understand our approach towards the issue of waste management is the exponential growth of landfills in Delhi. The eyes cannot NOT notice these humongous heaps of stinking garbage and thousands of eagles circling over these landfills in search of food. Take the case of Yamuna river, the same river that adds charm to the picturesque Taj Mahal, is in a sorry state itself with tonnes of garbage on its bank. Believe it or not, there is a 99% chance that you may spot 10 cows standing over garbage and chewing polythene bags, within 2kms radius of your home. We are that unclean, and so are you.
Garbage attracts Garbage. Period.
Anguished over our own reluctance to do something about underlying issues of our city Faridabad, particularly waste management, some of us came together and began picking up trash from a popular park in sec-21 Faridabad, called the Leisure Park. Daily, the park witnesses a footfall of thousands of men and women, who come over to jog, run, hop or stroll, but choose to ignore discarded packets of Lay’s chips, mineral water bottles, sachets of pan masala or chewing gums, plastic plates and the menacing polythene bags.
Despite of easily approachable dust bins installed across the park, responsible Indian citizens just choose the easy way out. Throwing trash as per their convenience!
No wonder that the Municipal Corporation, well-acquainted with the common man’s apathy towards cleanliness, chooses not to send the garbage pick-up truck for proper disposal of the trash spread across the park. Hence. the caretakers of the park, or the gardeners, are left with no choice but to burn the accumulated plastic waste, generating far more harmful gases like Dioxins for the environment. It is not a surprise that cancer cases reported in Faridabad district are the highest in Haryana.
The citizens of India have developed a gradual habit of looking elsewhere when problem is at their doors. Our reactive approach, fondly referred to as ‘jugaad’, has prevented our actual growth (not GDP) in every field of opportunity, and prevented us from being America or the Europe, countries that we try so hard to emulate. Until and unless we are fully aware of our actions and its impact on our environment, and choose wise alternatives, a cleaner greener India will remain a distant dream.
Winds of Change – Garbage attracts Garbage. So does cleaning garbage. While some of us were picking up polythene bags at the Leisure Park, a man in his fifties walked up to us and said a few words of encouragement, “Here is a little piece of contribution from me” as he handed a plastic bottle cap to us, “I found this lying where I was exercising”.
“But tell me, are you from India?” (Aap log Hindustan se hain kya?)
His question summed up our country’s psyche in one single sentence, as we looked at each other with awe and shock after he left…