After journeying for hours from Chennai, the city’s first air-conditioned train arrived here in Mumbai early on Tuesday morning. For Mumbaikars, it holds the promise of making hot, sweaty commutes a thing of the past, although this won’t happen in the immediate future, as extensive tests are expected for several months. But citizens can take cheer from the fact that once the trials are successful, nine more AC rakes will be manufactured for the city.

Yet, what is disheartening is that the train arrived in a damaged condition. On its way here, a miscreant flung a stone at it and damaged a double-sealed windowpane worth about Rs 10,000. This will need to be replaced, of course, but the incident sheds light on how callously we treat public infrastructure. Trains are regularly defaced with graffiti. Seats are torn and broken by commuters. This gross disrespect is, in fact, not restricted to the railways. It spans across all public facilities and ranges from spitting and littering, to defacing in different ways. Public transport, already stretched thin in the city, bears the brunt of indiscipline, carelessness and reckless use.

The city and, in fact, everybody needs to develop a sense of ownership when it comes to public utilities. Besides maintaining respect for other users, people need to develop a sense of pride in the infrastructure of the city and feel that they have a stake in it. After all, it has been made with the taxpayers’ money, so it does belong to them in a way. Delhi-ites actually take pictures and record miscreants who try to damage and deface the Metro. This is followed by strict punitive action. Huge fines also can act as deterrents for misuse.

All the upgradation in facilities and hi-tech offerings are useless if we are unable to treat what we have with care and respect. Why should we use only the fear of punishment to stop one from gross misuse and mishandling? Respect, dignity and care should be part of our system itself. Handle with care is not just a motto for airplane luggage but for all public property too.