I shall start with the stories of three gentlemen. The first story is related to a 27 years old postgraduate student cum social entrepreneur Jabir Karat. He took inspiration from environmentalist ‘Sunderlal Bahuguna’ and took up the cudgel for making his home state Kerala waste free. It was an ambitious, challenging and uphill task. However, Jabir did not dither and set up an organization titled ‘Green Worms’. Today the Green Worms manages more than 200 metric tonnes of dry waste and more than 3,000 kilogram food waste per month in Kerala.
The second story describes a 36 years old Mumbai based lawyer ‘Afroz Shah’. This young lawyer accomplished a gigantic feat of cleaning the filthy and stinky Versova beach in Mumbai. Many people led by Afroz toiled for 80-90 weeks to clean more than 2,000,000 kg of trash and transformed the beach into a clean and beautiful place to walk. Afroz started the cleaning process in October, 2015 himself. People then thought he was crazy, some mocked him and some just ignored him. However, he persevered and gradually more and more people joined him to turn the garbage dump Versova beach into the garden of Eden. He received the “Champion of the Earth” award from the United Nations Environment Programme.
The third story is about a hapless 32 years old e-rickshaw driver in Delhi who tried to stop few intoxicated men from urinating in public. ‘Ravinder’, the rickshaw driver told few youths not to urinate in public as it would stink and won’t be good for the environment. Those youth threatened him and later came back with their friends to teach him a lesson. Poor Ravinder was beaten mercilessly. Unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries later in hospital. The assailants were mostly college students.
There is a similarity among the above mentioned stories emanating from three different states. Readers can easily understand that these three stories are related to environmental issues. The first two had a happy ending and the last one had a tragic outcome as the protagonist Ravinder was martyred. These three examples clearly show that if we try sincerely we can clean our environment without Government intervention. Afroz and Jabir completed a mammoth task without Municipality or Government help initially. The example of the rickshaw driver proves that littering behavior of people is not always related to formal education but to awareness. It is obvious that a man named Ravinder with limited education had much better awareness of environmental cleanliness than few college goers.
While talking about college students and generation X. I was just thinking about the current trends in college politics. The Prime Minister of India rightly said that no college election campaign ever put the agenda of cleanliness of campuses in the election manifesto. I am sure nobody (regardless of political affiliations) would deny the fact that college campuses turn into a junkyard of posters, festoon, graffiti after the election. I have never ever heard any election candidates in the colleges cleaning them up after the election.
The younger generation of India must play a pivotal role to keep the motherland neat and tidy. The first step would be not to blame the government or authorities. No authority suggests or advise us to litter the streets with plastic bags, betel nut juices or gutkha or human excreta. It is you and me who do these to our motherland and expect the authorities to clean them up for us. After all, authorities are made up by people from us so if people are not conscious or responsible how can we expect authorities run by people picked up from us to be prompt, efficient and proactive.
Let the college unions ensure that the campuses are kept clean and this becomes a part of college election manifesto. Let us not always talk about rights, let us talk about our responsibilities as citizens of India. We may not be able to repeat the heroics of Afroz or Jabir but the least we can do is not to throw garbage or spit on the streets. Let us educate others about the need for cleaner environment and stop people from dirtying the roads. From my experience of staying abroad, I can surely tell that the streets in the first world nations are cleaner largely because of the better awareness of the people not because of the authorities. Let us make clean India campaign or ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ a mass movement led by you and me not led by the Government.
(Shakya Bhattacharjee is a Neurology Registrar at Royal Cornwall Hospital, United Kingdom. Views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Chaupal)