The Rotary club sent me an invitation. I went. They said that the meeting agenda was on keeping our surroundings clean. I listened. Water, land, air, fire, sky – All these five vital elements were to be discussed. Their use by mankind thoroughly debated. Agenda set, meeting started. Traces of self promotion by the participants filtered through. The issues under the hammer though were noble and timely. I sit.
Quite a substantial number of members of the Rotary club filled the seats. In between all of them sat an English lady going by the name Nadia. Came to know that she was a lot into social service and surrounding cleanliness campaigns. Felt a little ashamed. That our country needed an English lady to set things in motion made me feel guiltier. She helped out in her own way. Yet we don’t need help to litter our streets in our umpteen ways. Anger fills me. I make no attempt to hide it.
The Rotary big guys spoke. All on the city’s cleanliness state or lack of it. Lot of light thrown – On our people’s propensity to litter without a care in the world, on overflowing drains, on overturned bins, on open manholes, the whole works. Long winded takes on the probable reasons like lack of education / awareness followed. Lots of educational institutions dot the landscape. What have they taught? This worried all present.Why are private institutions not taking the lead? Questions flew. Answers stayed put. Some speakers stressed on waste and litter to be strictly disallowed on public places. Some wanted filmmakers to make movies on these issues. A few laughs rose. No heated discussions. Hot Coffee, Tea followed though. I felt uncomfortable that what I sought didn’t seem like happening. Just more questions. Not many answers.
Next to speak was the English lady Nadia. Suicidal Society – Her topic started. Startled – I got interested. Sat Straight.
The speech started on individual discipline. The man who keeps himself and his neighborhood and surrounding areas unclean is in effect digging his own grave. The speech caught fire. The issues cascaded. Lack of enough provision in houses for dirty and used water to find their way into the public drains. Stagnant water that facilitate breeding of mosquitoes and bacterial threats. Uncouth men and women who spit on public roads and property. Effluents from factories that totally pollute ground water. Gases, smoke and carbon emissions from manufacturing units. Minute cotton fluffs in cotton mills that can pose hazards. Each issue with grave repercussions for mankind. both directly or indirectly. Simple truths be told, Man is setting himself to kill the other by not keeping his surroundings clean. It hit me like a hammer thrust in my heart. Beautifully, attractively, in ways seemingly beneficial to all, in many more different avatars, man is using nature’s vital five elements the wrong ways and pressing the button to his own destruction, a suicide attempt at best. The speech made many speechless. Nadia’s simple talk doesn’t just apply to Coimbatore or India, but all of developed and developing countries that lose sight of keeping the surroundings and environment clean.
My own take on this issue falls on the legal system given more teeth to pull up offenders who fail on the cleanliness front. Private agencies coming in the fray and taking responsibility is one end of the spectrum. The real responsibility lies with the individual. Just like suicide attempts in India would entail one year imprisonment; this environmental degradation should also be treated as a punishable offence by law. Only the law can create a new world when people don’t seem to really care. Just like Russian laws in Stalinist era or euro laws pertaining to the same, or better still New Zealand (a great example), implementing such laws in India is the only way out. As a popular saying’s interpretation goes – You cannot request a peacock to gift you a feather. It can neither understand nor oblige. You just have to grab it.
The Indian government, central and state better wakes up and implement strict laws on hygiene and cleanliness of surroundings and environment. That for me is today’s pressing need.
<This rotary club meeting was held in Coimbatore during the last week of November.>