|Swach Bharat programme at Dimapur Super Market on 2nd October 2015. Volunteers of Tetso College, Bethesda Higher Secondary, Young Indians, Rincho Academy and Northeast India Academy of Performing Arts|
Singapore, which has a population of 5,535,000, is considered one of the cleanest cities in Asia where strict laws exist for cleanliness and maintenance of the environment, and where even spitting is considered an offense. On the other hand, we find a state like Nagaland, with a much lesser population and size struggling to keep its cities clean and spit-and-litter-free. Recently, on 2nd October 2015, a Swachh Bharat Campaign was organized in Dimapur in a bid to promote cleanliness and sanitation. While such initiatives are encouraging, it also makes us realise that we can and need to be doing more to promote and educate one another on the importance of civic sense, and that our outdoors need to be just as clean as the homes we live in.
Keep My State Clean
Our society has adapted to do things the easy way. We do not see our people adopting the appropriate means to get work done. However, when it comes to exhibiting real values in life, we need the application of proper means to achieve the required end. As Christians, we should always remember the well-known quote ‘Cleanliness is next to Godliness’. There is no denying of the fact that our society is proceeding towards an era without a civic sense, which in the long run will be hazardous. This is an apprehensive discussion about the Indian society in general and Nagaland in particular.
In India, nationwide sanitation programmes started way back in 1986, restructuring and changing policies several times with a different name each time. We have spent millions on sanitation infrastructure but sadly, all have failed because the most important component of such programmes was left out ie. ‘Civic Sense’. I fear Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the latest restructured sanitation programme of India may be another failure for the same reason.
Civic sense is nothing but social ethics or the unspoken norms of society. It is not just about keeping the roads, streets and public property clean but also has to do with abiding with law, respecting other’s point of view, maintaining decorum in public places. Individualism, vandalism, intolerance, racism, road rage, etc. are all examples of lack of civic sense. People are becoming less and less tolerant of each other, of other's cultures, backgrounds, beliefs and behaviour. It is simply about understanding that every right implies a responsibility, every opportunity an obligation and every possession a duty. It’s about having consideration for a fellow human being, having concern for elders, women, children and disabled people, driving in one’s lane without meaningless honking, proper disposal of garbage, smoking only at designated places. The list can go on.
We absolutely lack basic civic sense and many of us are not even bothered. For instance, the roads in Nagaland are not dirty because nobody cleans it, but they are strewn with garbage because it is us who have thrown it there in the first place. Such callous littering has no place in modern society but it still exists in ours because we accuse everybody for it and wait for someone else to remove it. On several instances, I have seen people spitting on the roads, littering public places. The current state of public transport, for example, is disheartening. There are spit stains, urine, vulgar graffiti, random garbage and overflowing of sewers at every nook and corner. Aren’t we all proud to live in a city that boasts a high standard of living and good infrastructure? Why is it that when it comes to keeping it clean, we turn a blind eye? We are enthralled by many things western societies do and the only thing missing is the sense of collective responsibility. Every single individual in our society seems to feel that the road belongs to him or her, be it the automobile driver, the two wheeler user or the pedestrian. At night, every driver tries to outshine the vehicles coming in the opposite direction, and the incessant honking which we all know is very annoying and of no use. Compare this with the disciplined silent driving in other countries. Land encroachment is another significant instance of the lack of civic sense, particularly in Nagaland. The Nagas today are so driven towards their personal gains that civic sense as an ethic has become a low priority and almost a nuisance to those who regard it as unnecessary evil. This attitude has proven to be catastrophic for our society. In addition, the developmental works carried out by various departments, viz. PHE and Telecom, which are supposed to be constructive initiatives, has unfortunately proven to be destructive in a way, because of the fact that after their work is done, they do not bother to take care of the dirt, and this undoubtedly creates inconvenience.
Ultimately, problems of such nature needs to be addressed in a pro-active way .The objective should be to create a sense of collective responsibility through education, participation and action both as a group and as an individual. The aim is to build awareness, knowledge and understanding the gravity of the situation and its impact on our society. The need of the hour therefore is to effectively address the problem, discourage behaviour that is detrimental to the society by instilling a set of values that can lead to creating the right mindset in people. Each of us should start practicing a culture of civic sense and sensibility, ensuring a future where everyone is aware of the importance of social ethic or societal norms which should not just be followed but should become a way of life.
Smooth functioning societies owe a lot of credit to the right amount of civic behaviour among its people. Civic sense does not come from just enforcement but from a "sense of belonging" which creates pride and a sense of ownership. Law cannot be enforced on many things. As a society we have to address this problem in a pro-active way and need to build that sense of accountability. Value formation as a determinant of behaviour is an important phenomenon that cannot be ignored or overlooked. Lack of civic sense has reached such a point of crisisnthat a single campaign will not be able to address the problem. We need to dismount our high sense of greatness and introspect seriously about our failings in civic virtues. Clean India campaign can address only a tiny part, and we as individuals shall have to find ways to switch on the civic sense button in our DNA. Civic Laws should be enacted and civic education should be introduced. Civic sense is something like a genetic trait. As such, if the present generation can be made ‘a human being with civic sense’ the rest is simple, future generation will follow.