Urban decay needs to be stopped!

It is disgusting to find somebody peeing on the roadside, littering in public spaces and indulging in insane blaring of horns


Faizi Hashmi | June 21, 2012

Filth and noise seem to be the two most distinct features of our urban life. We are already at the bottom on most parameters that determine development standards; all social indicators, or human development index as they call it, portray a dismal picture of the country. But our griminess takes the cake and it has only been increasing as city after city is literally going down the drain.

Where to start finding the fault? Are we inherently dirty by nature? That does not seem to be correct – Indians have traditionally been very conscious of personal hygiene – but cleanliness does not extend beyond the threshold of our homes and there lies the problem. The bigger picture is one of total inertia of the general will with regard to maintaining a decent civic life and disregard of the rule of law, which leads to a non-performing culture that takes pride in lineage alone; all privileges must emanate from birth and status and not from merit. It is this mindset that has given birth to a negligent deportment as the core and defining physiognomy of our city dweller.

It is disgusting to find somebody peeing on the roadside, people littering in public spaces and indulging in insane blaring of horns. The widespread smudge all around is most annoying. The other day while the India Gate sported multi-colour images and was the centre of a beautiful light and sound programme on the ‘keep India clean’ campaign, paradoxically there was litter all around being spread by men and women of all ages. Our torpor for the world around us and indifference to the environment is prodigious. Only psychologists and psychiatrists may help in finding the reason behind such glaring apathy.

We are a people that have least concern for the ‘other’ being. We clean our homes and shops daily but do not hesitate in throwing the rubbish on the street. That is what is most pronounced in our collective psyche – not bothered for what happens outside our door. No wonder we find garbage at the best of places; it could be outside the most posh mall or cinema hall or a high-end super-rich villa. So there is no ownership. The world outside my house does not belong to me and therefore is not my concern. This is leading to the growth of an unliveable environment. Our cities are extremely dirty; they present a wretched picture of urban decay.

The other aspect about lack of civility concerns the cacophony that we have created all around us. Ours must be the most raucous existence in the world. And most of this noise arises by blaring horns. Honking is therefore the biggest source of noise in our cities and we are not worried. Unfortunately it has become a mass contagion that has overtaken the entire nation in torpor. It is highly uncivil behaviour and disgraceful to say the least, enormously exasperating and causes extreme discomfort to the person who is victim of such mindless assault. It is a major source of stress-related disorders in our cities besides being responsible for physical harm to the hearing capacity as the decibel level is generally much higher than the permissible limits. Thus we are forced to lead a guttural existence.

Since the number of humans and the automobiles is set to rise uncontrollably, the future consequences of the resultant upsurge in muckiness and discordant ruckus can be easily gauged. It has already reached a traumatic level and further escalation would only mean a doomed existence in the cities.

The twin malaise could well turn out to be the biggest handicap towards building civil cities. It is a major challenge to urban governance and it is time to intervene to make a difference. Focusing on this neglected area of public policy by building a people’s movement through a sustained multi-media mass-awareness campaign, involving the community in a big way and adoption of zero tolerance to nuisance by effective implementation of civic regulations would help.




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