Saturday, August 22, 2015

Why is India so ungodly?

Cleanliness is (next only to) Godliness- believed Mahatma Gandhi.
Why is it then that cleanliness is such an ignored aspect in India?, particularly in the context of the civic infrastructure about which I wrote in my earlierarticle wherein I requested signing of an online petition demanding "right to quality civic infrastructure' to be made a fundamental right (...this petition incidentally is still struggling at a piddling 98 signatures after a week in existence)
Despite the usual refrain one hears that Indians are such by nature, I'd say that our attitude towards cleanliness has been shaped over past many years by the complete lack of administrative focus on this essential aspect of providing uniformly clean civic infrastructure & diligent upkeep of the same - yathaa rajah, tathaa prajah!
The first step to changing our situation is to open our eyes to dirty reality around us & importantly make a habit of questioning it - what better way to achieve this awareness than utilizing the power of social media as a platform to enable social change?
What motivated me is the immense success of the "Ice Bucket Challenge" that went viral on social networks and helped create widespread awareness about a disease called ALS - What gives me hope is the fact that if awareness & action can be triggered for a disease that effects not more than 200,000 people worldwide, it is perhaps possible to achieve similar results for highlighting the disease called 'rotten civic infrastructure & upkeep' that impacts a billion plus Indians.
This is also a extension of the approach called Gandhigiri, a bollywood invention that went on to become part of popular Indian lexicon now - Gandhigiri is nothing but shaming a person/ an institution into action through a peaceful, legal and mockingly respectful form of protest.
It is time for affirmative action that forces the government to tackle this malaise immediately rather than wasting time trying to take political mileage out of this unfortunate situation through symbolic schemes like Swachh Bharat Campaign that hasn't yet been able to make the lethargic civic administration(s) clean-up its act even while exhorting the citizens to clean-up their neighborhoods themselves.
It is time the citizens do something other than perennially cribbing about the state of affairs - Like the later-age mahatma Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam once said "If you want to leave your footprints in the sands of time do not drag your feet"
This is where the Clean India Challenge comes into picture;

While this challenge already started its rounds in a small way on Facebook, it will take a lot more to make this go viral so as to make an impact and change the status quo for all of us. 
I call on all my fellow citizens to take up this online challenge in a big way and challenge the offline reality of the inadequate civic infrastructure & upkeep in India.
Let there be light!

Update: 25th August 2015
One of the comments below made it pertinent that I explain the Why, Who & How of this challenge - here goes;
WHO ARE WE SHAMING? ------> We are shaming "us' - which includes the people as well as the government
WHO DO WE WANT TO SHOW THESE PICTURES TO? ------> We want to show the pictures to 'us' and to world as such
The rationale behind this being that unless we face (& expose) the reality in all its glory we wouldn't be motivated nor compelled to act on it decisively. After all isn't acceptance of a 'need for change' key to changing?
HOW DO YOU ENVISION CHANGE HAPPENING THROUGH THIS? --------> I envision change happening through the following process;
However before I explain the process, I need to list the following assumptions I made;
  • Creating Quality Infrastructure is the primary responsibility of 'the state' - Maintenance of the same too the primary responsibility of 'the state'. The citizen’s contribution towards civic infrastructure is primarily by way of paying taxes as required.
  • Citizen volunteerism towards maintaining cleaner neighborhoods can only be justified/ demanded/ expected ONLY when 'the state' did its job well - which I seriously doubt Indian civic administration does.
 *'the state' as defined in the constitution of India - I request you to read my petition on making 'right to quality civic infrastructure' a fundamental right to understand these assumptions more.
Sensitizing Indian residents to the quality of their neighborhoods. Provoking a sense of outrage among the citizens to this casual disregard to their right to quality civic infrastructure & hence create a sense of entitlement. Thereby vastly increasing their propensity to challenge the status-quo and create a citizen vanguard of cleanliness.
As the challenge catches up and more and more people upload pictures and hashtag them, a visual story the state of affairs in in each city, each colony will created - which will be the base-line for demand of change/ rectification
Utilizing the emerging sense of entitlement among citizens & encourage more and more people to sign the online petition for making "right to quality civic infrastructure' a fundamental right. Please note this demand aimed at amending the constitution is a symbolic act of saying the change of attitude required is at the very core, that in this current world, 'right to live' alone doesn't suffice a 'right to a right quality of life' is equally important AND that our dirty neighborhoods don't afford us that at this time.
Utilizing the hall of shame repository, the local neighborhoods can step up and demand the local civic authorities to clean-up their act & the neighborhoods in the bargain.
Through a sustained campaign bring about a social change that sustains than fizzle out after some fancy photo-ops
If one recalls/ searches up internet, the PM of India threw open a "Clean India Challenge" in October 2014 wherein he nominated a few CELEBRITIES?? (Sports, film et al) to pick up a broom clean their dirty neighborhoods and upload pictures (clean/ dirty) and tag other lesser celebrities to join - This was eventually supposed to have gone viral and in the bargain cleaned up India without a major burden on the government exchequer.
When did you last see this challenge in circulation: November 2014??? - This hasn't sustained since it played on cleaning up being a voluntary citizen act rather than the states responsibility & citizen entitlement - It failed since people realized this is more of a photo-op & a popularity contest (to be hand-picked by the PM to participate). Its unfortunate that none of the nominated celebrities bothered to asked the PM why they should also pay all the taxes and also wield the broom and why the local civic authorities never realized that their neighborhood needed some sprucing up?
This challenge is a relaunch of this misfired celebrity challenge. This Clean India Challenge 2.0 is our challenge, the peoples challenge and one based on facing reality before changing it & importantly one that puts the onus on the government first and then the citizen.
Finally, the worst thing that can be done to any voluntary social action is to let cynicism kill it. I exhort all to rest their doubts for this time and act instead - In a worst case scenario, this will be another aborted, ignored mission - but one that hopefully will leave a few more citizens with a higher sense of entitlement & responsibility.

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