Yesterday, this paper carried a report about how the Indian Railways is attempting to get its stations cleaned up. Ground staff, who can be spotted collecting trash and scrubbing out paan stains every day, are now demanding that the railway authorities bring in stricter regulations and penalties for those who litter or soil the stations.
Currently, stationmasters have the power to fine offenders caught spoiling the railway station premises. Some of the staff have suggested that instead of simply levying fines, offenders should be made to clean up after themselves. Yet, one thinks that clean- up initiatives need a lot of thought and pragmatism. Let there be some introspection and debate; they should not be implemented in haste. Fines work best as they pinch the pocket, but let the public know, through signboards everywhere, what exactly is the fine for littering. Clean-up personnel cannot act as extortionists, but only go according to the rule and fine exactly the amount that is due. One has to admit that cleaning up is especially difficult in a city with such a humungous population, and where stations are impossibly overcrowded.
Sometimes, those in charge of the clean-up scheme may be unable to even see or nab the offender, because of the large number of people on the station. Yet, when the offender is caught, people would do well to admit their mistake, pay the fine and clean up. In the absence of this ideal response, it is better to simply accept the mistake, pay the fine, learn a lesson and ensure that one does not repeat this.
Authorities, too, need to make this scheme sustainable over a long period of time. Short, quick-fix methods do not work and usually come to naught. They have to show the public that they mean business. Fining one commuter also means setting an example for the others, who will realise that flouting rules can mean a hole in the pocket. Railways, give a serious thought to your clean-up scheme and make it one that will work well and effectively in the long run.