Sweeping changes

With ministers and bureaucrats and those who wield clout now wielding a broom, we are in for some sweeping changes.

Written by Dilip Bobb | Updated: October 5, 2014 12:18 am
swachh Secretary to the President Omita Paul participates in a cleanliness drive after the launch of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti in New Delhi. (Source: PTI)

It’s the start of a new broomance. The Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Mission aims to get people to rediscover their roots, and leaves, and other discarded matter so they can make a clean break with the past. With ministers and bureaucrats and those who wield clout now wielding a broom, we are in for some sweeping changes. Yet, there is literally a mountain to climb and there clearly need to be specific targets. Here are some obvious targets.

The spitter: That slimiest of species, the spitter only breeds in the subcontinent and can be identified by the sound ‘swachh’, which is heard when spit hits the road, wall or nearest object. It seems to be connected to an affliction of the salivary glands, since Indians spit with alarming frequency and velocity with no regard for the mess they are leaving behind or any disease they may be spreading, much to the disgust of non-spitters who are clearly a minority community and unprotected against ugly spats. Spitters need to be identified and soon; spittoon in other words.

The paan Indian: A species similar to the spitter, except with a more colourful background, or foreground, since that is where he/she usually squirts the spittle collected by eating paan, leaving blood-like stains on walls and sidewalks. Again, a filthy habit perfected in the subcontinent, it has spread far and wide, on every available surface. In Indian cities, to locate a paan shop, just follow the stains. If the Clean India campaign is to succeed, these need to be segregated and put in enclosures, much like the zoo, with a large sign saying ‘Beware, paan eaters’.

The urinator: We Indians have passed the urine test with flying colours, or, more appropriately, with the fly open, showing our true colours. Not a very pretty sight, but it also shows why we have such a piss-poor record in sanitation, with most Indian men preferring the nearest wall to the nearest toilet to soak the atmosphere. Pee shooters run a muck in India and, sadly, it’s not for lack of toilets; in every Indian city, if you see a car, motorbike or scooter parked by the side of the road, you can be sure the owner is up against the nearest wall, adding to the malodorous graffiti already inscribed there. We cannot kiss in public, but it’s fine to piss in public. What the urinators need is urine therapy, as prescribed by an earlier prime minister.

The squatters: Not the ones unlawfully grabbing real estate, but those we see in a real state from passing trains very early in the morning, which is why we peculiarly refer to it as ‘night soil’. It could also do with a phenomenon called mooning. It’s such a human waste, but we are told that 600 million Indians defecate in the open. That fact may help illustrate the modern phrase, ‘shit happens’. Unfortunately, there’s no solution in sight, just ablution.

The litterati: If we can take a walk without something squishing, squelching, crackling, snapping or crumbling under our feet, we must be in a foreign country. We love to litter and are the litterati of the world, which is why we produce over one million metric tonnes of garbage each day. It’s also why 13 of the 20 dirtiest cities in the world are in India. The Aam Aadmi Party’s choice of a broom as party symbol was not random, even if our choice of where to dump our garbage often is. A majority of the population in India seems to believe that waste disposal means a slimming diet.

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  1. P
    Prapur
    Oct 5, 2014 at 9:12 pm
    Punishment in the form of community service is the best way to change peoples habit. Money alone will not create swachh bharat. All person breaking law of spitting or littering must pay by community service in the location he has broken law. No matter how important or status of a person may be.There needs to have trash can or dustbin of a barrel size with lid on it at every crossing with durable plastic bags to be emptied when filled. It will not cost arms and leg if every shop keeper in the area pitch in. That too shall not get stolen so may need a chain. This way all business people will benefit and make all Pan vendors to pay double than other shop keepers who benefit most and create most mess. Most regular persons wish to live in filth free space but things will not change over night. If possible chewing pan or any tobbaco product in public and fine by way of community service to clean area if break the law.
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    Arun Sharma
    Oct 5, 2014 at 7:51 am
    Indians have still not learnt to live with urban ways. We are still living in a rural way in our cities. Can Modiji ban pan shops, pan mas and chewing tobacco to control spitting as whoever consume it has to spit after a few minutes. Earlier, Nawabs used to have a servant carrying siptoons behind them. Poor Indians can not afford it now.
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  3. B
    B.D.SINGH
    Oct 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm
    Modi is showing our real weaknesses which we did not want to talk earlier. He knows the real problems and hence we expect solutions also.
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  4. G
    Gopal
    Oct 5, 2014 at 8:18 pm
    It is a good list but what solutions do you suggest? One is that atudes need to change. The second has to be funding for cleaning up. Perhaps private companies should be given contracts to clean parts of India. The third is building a very large number of toilets to get rid of defecation and manual scavenging. These are not going to be easy but can be done in the next five years.
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  5. T
    Thirumagal
    Oct 5, 2014 at 4:00 pm
    The worst thing is, if you are ever unfortunate enough to visit a public toilet, you will see that the actual bowl/basin and its immediate area is dry and clean but you cannot get there because the women seem not to be able to control themselves that last few steps and do the business all around.
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  6. V
    V. Ramaswami
    Oct 5, 2014 at 12:47 pm
    Let us not denigrate our own people much and certainly not the poor. Have you seen a US baseball game and the spitting that goes on all around, or all the spilled beer and other junk thrown around everywhere except in those tourist spots ? The babus of India need to make sure the poor have enough toilets and running water facilities, and things will fall in place, for no human likes to live in filth. The better off can start by not throwing things around as they please for a starter and understand that their sense of cleanliness has to extend to what is external to their house too.
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