The Cleaner Times Of India

By Sunil Kumar

One of the most striking things anybody who’s ever been outside India; especially to more developed countries; observes and comments on is the apparent outside cleanliness. Like everything; this also has shades of grey; but better to keep the picture simple as of now. However; the same cannot be said of government establishments in the country; and most other public places.

The thing making headlines today is PM Modi’s visit prompting government officials to spruce up their loos and ensure that the “paan” propriety of the government clique does not come to Shri Bhai’s notice. So, for a few days; Herbert Baker and Lutyen’s creations in New Delhi may look a little better; and we can be sure that Shri Modi Bhai may approve.

The larger issue here is general cleanliness around the country. Any state in the union(Maharashtra se Bengal, Kerala Se Kashmir Tak) presents the same sorry picture of neglect and inept government officials oblivious to jumbled electrical wiring; and general lackadaisical attention paid to the housekeeping.

Case in point; my mother meeting the top army brass in Sena Bhawan(Armed Forces HQ) in New Delhi. Aghast at the lack of attention given to basics in the government’s top military interface; the situation in the rest of the country is not very difficult to understand.  So, you can be sure that there’s a stink everywhere; not just in high-minded discussions, politicking and administration.

I remember listening to Tarun Tejpal waxing eloquent on the byzantine corridors of power(ref: Delhi) in a discussion on India’s founding fathers. The context may have been different; but if members of the intellectual elite could focus on ground basics; as in getting atleast the outer environment clean; then we could be in for a cleaner Bharat; literally.

There’s no apparent shortage of protestors for everything; most of the things occupying mindspace are clearly known to the public; religion, secession, sexual violence, corruption. Social indicators and an unsullied, chaste natural environment ; another parameter that the world judges us by; somehow does not occupy that much mindspace.

The Barack Obama administration has recently unveiled a clean energy policy; which in simple words means to cut down on emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The do-gooder come lately; the United States now expects similar things from the usual suspects; China and India; and we can be sure that some arbitrary timeframe will be set. And Justice for All! Al Pacino and De Niro never thought of so far away; it was probably the next ballgame.

Can’t comment on the country next door; but I expect the path to a cleaner nation; in terms of a better enviroment and infrastructure in India; to be a long and arduous journey. Nearly a decade back; cinemas in the country helped us peek into a place we already knew; via some iconic Times of India ads played in between the movies; and the Channel V baseline; “We are like this only”.

So; if Modi plans a “nirman nagar” in every town and city; promises to eliminate manual scavenging; and can actually get governmentwalas to keep things clean 24X7; all of us can actually commend this sarkaar.


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