The ground reality couldn’t have been more in-your-face. As one alighted from a local train that had terminated inside the historic environs of the Victoria (now Chhatrapati Shivaji) Terminus, plugged on to music from one of the city’s radio stations, a filler advertisement in between playlists was encouraging listeners to promote the Clean India (Swachch Bharat) campaign.
Of course, by now, most of urban India has been privy to the buzz that this campaign has generated what with celebrities, sportspersons, business barons and Bollywood icons being chosen to take the first step and strive towards keeping our country clean.
Walking under the gaze of stone etched gargoyles and other Gothic delights that adorn this UNESCO World Heritage Site, one watched in dismay as paan stains and spit-fests by mindless commuters were in full display. It was in complete contrast to what the message on the radio was advocating middle-class India to do. Keep India clean; start with you, and in your own backyard. It doesn’t get simpler than this. And here, one was watching in dismay and disgust as it was being flouted. We, as a society don’t seem to care, and those who do, are finding themselves in small numbers. There is a challenge at hand if this campaign has to be put into practice.
Little wonder then that we must watch as our landmarks, monuments and other places of tourist interest continue to remain in poor shape; often, the surrounding areas or the walkways leading to these sights give the visitor prior warning of what’s in store. It’s the same story that runs across many of our tourist attractions. Vandalism, lack of adequate litter bins or those that are never cleared for days on end, disrespect for our treasures...the list is woefully endless. And to think that these sights are promoted in travel brochures and itineraries as must-visits!
The lack of civic sense is a concern that needs to be worked upon on a mammoth scale but at a very basic level — by educating people, in their homes, and in schools, about its ills. . we believe, will have far more resonance and pack the necessary punch required to propel this campaign rather than having celebrities engage in mere tokenism as they flaunt brooms and pose for photo-ops. Where is the blueprint for the way forward? How can this be a long-term sustainable campaign? The common man needs to know because at the end of the day, it is the common man who can make the difference too.
It's high time that we think of the larger picture, after the dust settles down...
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day