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Spit anywhere, it’s India yaar

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Thursday, April 23, 2009 - 12:01
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer

Recently, one of my close friends returned home from a week long-vacation in Dubai. With her parents and other family members, she naturally had a very pleasant stay in Dubai and was very smitten by the artificial greenery, cleanliness and the spruced streets there.

However, in utter dismay she said that it would take another 50 years for the Indian government to match the standards of safety and cleanliness maintained by the Dubai administration. She came down heavily on the poor state of Indian roads, which are generally filled with pot holes, cow dung and spit trails of pan masalas.

My friend was right to some extent as many of us are familiar about the deplorable condition of Indian roads, and feel embarrassed when someone compares our country on these accounts with the other.

However, it won’t be appropriate to blame the government alone for every pressing problem being faced by our country.

And let alone roads, it seems that we Indians have developed a strange obsession for spitting err colouring the neat and clean corners of every single wall in government offices, public places, railway stations, bus stands and government hospitals etc.

Unmindful of our disgusting act, we Indians take pride in changing the geography (appearance) of any wall if it is not being guarded by watchful eyes.

In fact, I should say that we Indians are born natural artists as we have expertise in creating various horizontal, vertical lines matching the colour patterns of a painted wall and that too not with the help of a brush and colour, but with the dark corrosive red beetle juice.

We all know that spitting, urinating and littering on government properties, public places is very disgusting, embarrassing and unhygienic, but even then we have no urge to motivate and resist people from spitting paan masala and gutkhas every here and there.

One can easily imagine how one feels when his newly constructed and painted wall is repainted by these born natural artists, who take pleasure in spitting on such unspoiled properties.

I would rather punish some one if I catch a person spitting on my property. But that would not solve the problem since I am not in a position to pay compensation to the victim as I am a garib patrakaar (a mere journalist). As it is said that “words are mightier than sword,” I preferred to write and motivate people for changing their habit of spitting, urinating and littering.

We all know that government, Indian Railways spends crores of tax payers’ money every year to clean the corrosive stains of paan and gutkha, as it could not be removed by using normal detergents and simple washing.

According to a report, the Indian Railways spends an estimated Rs 1.50 crore every year in cleaning and scrubbing of the grim.

The stains of paan masalas and gutkhas are highly corrosive and permanent in nature, which require lot of water, non-caustic detergents, cleaning equipments and above all man power.

Clearly, a large chunk of taxpayers’ money is wasted in the so called “cleaning campaign”, which could be otherwise spent on public welfare schemes or improving the infrastructure.

Moreover, the legislations put in place by the government aimed at penalising those caught spitting are of no use since the offenders are mostly not nabbed.

In present circumstances, there is an urgent need to change the existing legislations to stop people from spitting, littering and urinating on public properties. Often no case is registered since arresting an offender and taking him to court proves to be a futile and time consuming exercise. In such cases, the precedent set by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), in a bid to strengthen its Clean Mumbai Campaign, can be emulated where in the offender is fined on the spot.

According to reports, the BMC created a special squad to deal with the menace of spitting, littering and urinating in 2007. It has since then fined over one lakh offenders and collected fines to the tune of Rs 4 crore.

Besides introducing stringent measures, efforts should also be taken by the local level administration to spread awareness about maintaining cleanliness through announcements, posters and various campaigns.

At a time when our government is dealing with more complex problems like global warming, terrorism & internal security, declining economic output etc simpler issues such as spitting and littering can be effectively dealt by developing a good civic sense in our children at a very tender age.

Our governments can recommend changes in the curriculum of primary level education by introducing chapters on cleanliness, health and hygiene, discipline, importance of plants and trees with respect to the environment, abiding traffic rules, maintaining order while in a queue, using spittoons, garbage boxes to dump household wastes etc.

These simple measures will help us in inculcating a good civic sense in our children over generations and make them responsible citizens in future. These measures will help us get rid of the menace of spitting and other such evils.

It is not surprising why educated citizens in the developed and industrialised countries do not litter, urinate or spit on roads, public places but instead use spittoons and garbage boxes.

The United Kingdom presents a classic example in this regard, which was probably the first country in the world to introduce the spittoon culture aimed at inculcating a good civic sense in its citizens.

These simple but effective steps helped the Western nations in overcoming the problems arising out of unmindful spitting, littering and urinating at public places.

The local administration can also install a large number of spittoons and garbage-disposal trolleys at government offices, public spots, roadsides where ever possible.

It can do wonders if the commuters learn to respect public property and avoided littering and spitting, which in turn will save their hard-earned money and help the government in providing better facilities.

First Published: Thursday, April 23, 2009 - 12:01

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