Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Avoiding the Zero stamp

The much maligned Organising Committee of the upcoming Commonwealth Games, to be held in Delhi this year, has come in for some scathing criticisms besides becoming the butt of several jokes and we only hope that the highly publicised Zero Garbage Campaign for Imphal City, does not end up along the line of the preparation for the Commonwealth Games, which has been aptly named by some as Common Wealth, where the wealth is there to be pocketed by crooks of all hues and colours, and end up close to a Zero Campaign. Zero Tolerance Against Crime is a term which entered the vocabulary of the cops of some cities in the United States, during the days of the Mafia, and the first lesson that has to be imbibed is for the citizens of the land to develop Zero Tolerance towards dirt and filth as well as develop a mindset, which says that the streets and roads are not dumping grounds, where the deceptively looking gentleman or the comely lady next door, take only a few glances up and down the road to make sure there are no eye witnesses, to dump their waste, which may include, among others even human excreta. Forget about Zero Garbage, to make Imphal at least presentable, we first need to clear the cob webs that inhabit the mentality of the people here and this is what is going to be the toughest part of the whole exercise. On the other hand the Government also needs to thoroughly uphaul its style of functioning, which can be seen on the streets as slush and muddy pools during the rainy season and dust and grime during the dry season. A cleanliness drive in the city will have no meaning, if one department digs up a portion of the road, which has just been black topped after a long time, to lay a water pipe or underground cables. In other words, there is an urgent need for a more a cohesive approach and better co-ordination amongst the different arms of the Government. Punishment deters, is also a fact that should not be lost on anyone. To start with, we would be really glad to see the Government levying fines or even levelling serious charges, that could land a person in prison, for, say, spitting on the road or dumping the family's waste and garbage on the road. The fines should be hefty and it should be publicised, not only to deter others, but also to teach a lesson to all the scumbags, who are under the impression that they can get away with dumping their waste plumb in the middle of the road. Along with this mechanism, the Government will also need to work out a system to ensure that imposing fines on the offenders does not mean lining the pockets of the law enforcers or those put on duty to check violators. The first step has to come from the Government, no doubt about that, and just launching a campaign to make Imphal spic and span will not do. What is needed is political will, perseverance and tough policies to rein in all those who have literally turned Imphal into a dumping zone or a public toilet, where anyone can relieve themselves any time, as long as it doesn't cross the line of modesty or decency ! To correct this mindset, as we have said before, will undoubtedly prove to be the biggest challenge one will encounter on one's journey to a clean and hygienic Imphal.
There are many reasons why Imphal has turned into something of a slum and it may even put Dharavi to shame ! The rising human population, migration from the rural areas to the capital, absence of any comprehensible town planning, the indiscriminate use of plastic carry bags, lack of infrastructure to provide proper sheds to all the women vendors selling their goods, wherever they can find space, lack of proper drainage system, the fast disappearing natural drainage system that we had, the Khongbans, the lack of dumping grounds, the failure of the Government to come up with any worthy solid waste management policies etc. The culprits are many for turning the capital of Manipur into such a filthy place. As we have said, it is the mindset of the public which should be thoroughly cleansed and sterilised with all the available anti-septic or anti-bacteria solutions, before Imphal can dream of doing away with all its garbages and seen within this prism, one of the chief culprits are those living in high rise buildings in the commercial areas, such as Paona bazar, Thangal bazar, MG Avenue etc. People living on the second, third or even first floor, find it very convenient to collect their waste in the ever reliable plastic bag and bingo, it will disappear through the windows to land plum in the middle of the road. This is usually a nocturnal activity but the damage is the same. The other is the utter failure of the Government to check the indiscriminate use of plastic bags, which have clogged our rivers, streams and nullahs, leading to water stagnation, which in turn become the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, which in turn provides the perfect ambience for the spread Malaria or Dengue or any other infectious diseases. The presence of a Municipal Council, with its elected members, have turned out to be a dud, unable to earn its own resources and in the process failing to pay its employees for months on end, forget about buying fuel for the vehicles to tow away the garbages piling up by the minute on the streets of Imphal. We have detailed some of the factors for the present state of Imphal and addressed the basic questions that need to be addressed, for it is imperative that before a surgery, a diagnosis is indispensable. Launching the Zero Garbage Campaign for Imphal, will surely be reduced to a Zero Campaign, minus the garbage, if the factors we have mentioned are not taken into consideration, though it is by no means an exhaustive list with many other factors which can be added. In other words, study the factors behind the filth and garbage first and then go ahead with the campaign.

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