Swachh Bharat

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Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and We The People : A Question of Values

Published June 24, 2015 by vishalvkale



Clean India : Swachhtaa Abhiyaan; at long last, we have a Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, a leader, interested in setting an example, becoming an exemplar to the people by focusing on all the right values : cleanliness, closeness to our culture {Yoga as an example}; he has faults – but let us praise where praise is manifestly due in all fairness. But, that does not mean that this attitude, while setting an exemplar, an example before us, will automatically solve our cleanliness issues, even without the systemic flaws I pointed out in my previous article on this issue: Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Or Clean India – Does It Meet The Problem?


As I wrote earler, do you really require the Prime Minister of your country to tell you keep your nation clean? Do you really require to be told to throw things in dustbins? Do you really require to be told to keep your city clean, not throw waste outside your home? Do you really need to be told to throw the waste inside the dustbin, not in its general direction? You dont clutter your home – then, in that case, if you throw garbage on the road, what does this behaviour say about you as a person


We are a nation of 1.28 Billion; setting the example wont do much good. Akela Chanaa etc etc… We have to get to the core reason behind such behaviour. Why do people behave the way they do? Why do people take care to keep their home clean, their office clean, the posh hotels etc clean, but display such crass behaviour elsewhere? ? What internal value systems are you displaying? What does it say about your true priorities?

At the office, it is peer pressure + HR / Disciplinary Action + Boss fear; at home it is family fear + selfishness + long exposure / stay; at the posh market it is peer pressure + image etc. What are the core values a person is displaying? It is certainly not cleanliness, or love for cleanliness, or even ethics. The values being displayed are Power, Hunger, Image, Presentation, Projection, Self etc…

A truly clean person displays the same – precise same – behaviour across all aspects of life, not a differential behaviour. Values {at least the core values} dont change as per the situation : if it does, it isnt a value or a core value of that person. Values are typically rock-steady, and remain virtually almost unassailable unless challenged by deep philosphical thought, or disaster etc – or a long sustained period of change : positive or negative. We dont try and make them decent human being; we dont teach values. It starts at home. What you see around you is a reflection of your own deeds, and attitudes.


No point pointing fingers. People are unclean because parents like you and me have not taught them this basic human behaviour. That can only mean that our minds are tainted and unclean. A clean mind, a truly clean mind, sees ethics, values and cleanliness in every endeavour. If there is duality, as in spoken ethics {or even provable ethics} combined with a habit of uncleanliness… Change your attitude towards India, be selfless, view it as your home, and internalise cleanliness.


Sorry to be harsh, but the fault is of the parents. Parents should scold or punish their children for such behaviour; that we dont is a manifest fact. We try and make them street-smart, we try and make them come first…


What is happening in these instances? A person is being influenced by external stimuli which is transient in nature; the moment this stimulus is removed. the behaviour goes back to the normal. Behaviour is controlled by your value system; and external stimuli that are transient and short-term have zero impact on the value system.


Thus, any recommended solution will perforce have to cater to the problem. The nature of the positive influencers like the exemplars others looked at above are such that these are transient temporary influences which lack a long-term impact in the absence of strong emotive rewards for the desired behaviour; that is why the impact wanes over time. And that is also why, despite the fact that Values can change in a sustained exposure, exemplars generally fail to make an impact all by themselves

By contrast, fear of punishment, image consciousness, etc negative influences retain their power for a much longer time after the removal of the stimulus. That is why the only way is to initiate a strong disincentive towards tardy behaviour {littering and filth in this case}, driving the subject towards the desired behaviour : cleanliness.

And that is why I recommend strong punishments for tardy behavior, as in Singapore. This can be combined with school {nursery level, KG-1&2 level children and parent interactions with trainers. And fail the children – even at these starting levels – if both parents dont turn up for these training sessions regularly. Disincentives all along the line for adults, and incentives and freebies and other reinforcers for the children. If you are not clean, there is no place in society for you is the message that should go across to the people.


Adults dont need to be reminded or reinforced of the need for cleanliness; that is a very basic and expected societal norm. Besides, with their value systems being fully formed, the chances of positive re-inforcers, exemplars etc changing the core behaviour is precious little. In order that action is initiated from such recalcitrant people, we need to take a leaf from the errant behaviour : negative influencers : peer pressure, fear etc which we saw above. These will be the drivers than will drive the adults to the sessions, namely the certainly that their child will be failed, for their fault.

Thereafter, you can use any number of positive influencers that you like, your exemplars etc. In my opinion, nothing else will work. We have seen exemplars showing people – I myself have for years being setting examples, with little to show for it. In my colony, for the past year, some adults have been voluntarily cleaning the garden, with zero impact. It is still as dirty as it used to be before the great swachhtaa tamaashaa!

That is why setting an example will not work; and that is why it hasnt worked till now. Remember the Aamir Khan Ad? Or recall all those people who do the cleaning up, and who carry things to the dustbin etc? It hasnt worked because it wont; not now, not ever.
These are influencers, and influence behaviour only for the duration of the experience. Thus, no amount of setting examples is the solution. Values change only when a person is put through a deep, positive or negative influence that has the capacity to jar a person from stem to stern. Or they can be formed during the early years; that is it. The only solution is parent and children education, and a slow change for the better. Fact of the matter is that the moral compass of our society is seriously skewed, and that is a fact.


Rest assured; if a person acts clean in office, malls – but is careless in public places, that person is almost a charlatan, a con and a put-on. He or she is wearing a fake garb of ethics. The truly ethical person is ethical in each and every walk of life, is uncompromising on this basic human value.


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Do We Really Want Change – 3: The Hard Reality

Published October 28, 2014 by vishalvkale

This is the 3rd part of the articles : 








In the first part, we looked at our gullibility, and our tendency fawning & hero-worship of personalities, juxtaposed against our real problems. In the second part, we took a look at our history of tolerance and diversity, compared to our modern day habit of rising intolerance & impatience. In the 3rd and concluding part of this mini-series, I shall attempt to put it all together and get a glimpse of the direction we are in



In order that we do the above, it is critical that we remind ourselves of the problems India is currently facing : 



  1. we need lesser corruption at the lower & higher levels; 
  2. we need good growth, ease of doing business; 
  3. we need equal growth for all sections of our society;
  4. we need a functioning and decent state and central government and their related organisations; 
  5. we need a free Lokpal, CBI, Police, Judiciary
  6. we need a strong defence framework, without the current problems that it is beset with
The points above cover nearly all aspects, from security to law enforcement; from education to economics; from health to corruption and from growth to equality for all. It is also deliberately circumspect; leaving out one critical aspect – tolerance, which I have alluded to elsewhere, in considerable detail. It is best if that point is left out of this debate due to its contentious and subjective nature.

Let us start from a simple contemporary example : the recent Swachh Bharat campaign. I am on record praising it for its plus points, as it targets the pusillanimous habits of us Indians – which  I had noted as early as in January 2012 : Our Attitude Regarding Civic Responsibilities. I quote : “On any given day, we can see innumerable examples of Indians putting their country to shame – spitting on the road, breaking red light, parking in no parking zone, not helping people in need in accidents, peeing in public, ignoring corruption incidents, ignoring broken public water taps”



How many of us took the trouble to note that there has been little systemic change in the overall garbage collection pattern? As I will document with Photographs in a subsequent mail, there has been little or no change, with garbage heaps in the middle of the colonies or in towns still being a regular feature as on date 27th October 2014.  I intend to give this campaign a fair chance : let some time pass. Let us see the results; if they are beyond my expectations – My India will benefit! However, as on date, I  can still see mounds of dirt piled everywhere. And there is precious little pressure on the Government to introduce systemic change, which I allude to here : Swachh Bhaarat Campaign




Similar scenes of neglect can be spotted across the length and breadth of India. Clean India requires an efficient and functioning garbage collection and disposal system. It requires a network of public facilities like dustbins, urinals etc. It requires a functioning and diligent municipal and governmental machinery in each and every state, district, tehsil, taluka and pargana of the nation. Do we have that? Far too obviously, we dont. 



Simply cleaning up the streets once is not the answer. What happens to the waste after that? Is there a cohesive action plan to deal with this waste on a regular basis? Is there an action plan to ensure that the people who are responsible for this do their duties? That they dont collect the trash and create a stinking heap somewhere in public? That the  garbage vehicle come regularly, and dumps the trash not in the street, but in a landfill?



As can be seen from the example above, this is no small task; it is a gargantuan enterprise spanning a multitude of Government-People interfaces, straddling a multitude of functional areas. This is a task that requires robust administrative systems, thorough follow-up, execution excellence and ground-up reform. And the sad part is, the hard reality is that among the people at large, there is precisely zero interest or awareness regarding these points. 




Our attitude is – Narendra Modi will do it. The BJP central government will do it. But on precisely how he will do it, no one is interested, putting blind faith in him. I dont contest his skills –  he stands as one of the finest leaders to lead India – that is not the point of the article. The point is our lackadaisical attitude towards the crying need for strong performing institutions and government bodies in our nation, and the abdication of our responsibilities in making this  happen by the self-abrogation of our duties, passing them  to one persona, to one individual – whosoever may that person be. 



We are fine with grandiose words and flamboyant statements; that is to be expected, given that we are an emotional people. But in doing so, an educated and aware people should be equally aggressive in demanding strong performing institutions of a democratic set-up : our total silence on this, and other matters {some of which I refer to below} prove beyond any shade of doubt that we as a people have abdicated our duties and are content & satisfied to pass these on to some other person, without the attendant checks and balances to ensure performance. That is the vital point – the hard reality that the vote alone is not the only check there is on a Government in a democratic set-up. That is what cuts to the core of the issue – the hard reality, which exposes us as a people; the fact that we as a people do not realise the extent of the power we wield in our hands by virtue of us being in a democracy. 

This same attitudinal issue can be readily seen in any number of other matters vital to the nation : The problems besetting the Defence Establishment, Education, Health, Police Reforms, Agriculture, CBI, Infrastructure etc. The problems of the Education sector, to take another live example – are known to the majority of the people : Lack of standardisation with the proliferation of boards, poor teacher attendance in the interiors, outdated curricula, rampant fees monopoly in top schools, disinterested teachers, etc. Similar can be said of any number of problems facing the nation : lack of proper defence equipment, genetic crops and their problems vis-a-vis their benefits. 

Look at any major issue that is plaguing the country : the one overarching factor that leaps out at you is the lack of a concerted debate in the Media and Social Media space, beyond the average article that crops up sporadically. These may appear sporadically, but they are very, very far from being a concerted campaign. These articles are fundamentally different from being a debate; they are simply eye-candy to push sales and revenues, as they do not incite positive action from the readership, who read, forget and move on. Further, due to the manifest lack of emotive connect with the readership or audience, these tend to be isolated, and not huge outcries which can lead to serious pressure on the Government to clean up its act.  Critically, the readership / audience reads or listens repeatedly, time and time again, without doing anything about it. 

A debate involves active and/or passive participation from both sides of the story : The Media as well as the readership or Audience. Good, positive stories from the Media should ideally or optimally lead to positive and constructive action from the people : which can take any form : social media pressure, communication with the Government or the MP/MLA, Bureaucrats etc. This manifest lack of constructive communication with the Government and its representatives and officers is what has lead to the political class ignoring the genuine needs of the electorate. By contrast, more emotive  but lesser vital issues become headlines with regular follow-ups and Media outcries, and further lead to protests and other activism that is neither constructive nor positive.

We are a people that can take to the streets in protest for any number of frivolous or relatively unimportant issues; but decry any effort at registering our dissatisfaction on the serious issues. Over a period of time, this has lead to the political class driving us on those emotive but lesser important issues; such that now, engaging the representatives and officers of the government in two-way discussions or seeking help from them is considered impossible. This has actually created a chasm between the leadership and the people. The people, on their part, have apparently come to accept that this is the way things will continue to run and cannot change.

The hard reality is  that, basis the arguments presented above, it is quite apparent that we as a people, do not care enough about the real issues that need to be tackled. Sure, we care about them – but we dont connect with them on the same emotional plane as the other issues. Had that been the case, lack of police reforms, educational reforms , lack of defence preparedness, black money etc would have generated the same level of outrage as some of the other pointless rages that have enveloped the nation time and time again.  

The hard reality is that we are in a comfort zone; we have adjusted to this level of activity, and the current levels of involvement. We do not really want change – or, at least – we do not want to be the change agents. We want to enjoy the benefits of change; but do not want to take the trouble to actively do anything positive and constructive to bring about that change. That is why, when a charismatic leader comes along – we idolise him or her, depending on him or her to make some changes, but shy away from engaging with  the new leadership in a  constructive fashion. A few engagements do not matter in a nation of 1.27 Billion; and the rest of us are not interested or are a part of the bystander brigade. 

In the next mini-series, I shall attempt to chronicle my thoughts and analyse this seemingly illogical behaviour of this Bystander Brigade, as well as what avenues they can have in a democracy to put the heat on the Government in a peaceful and democratically acceptable fashion. Stay connected with my blog for the next series : India’s Bystander Brigade

Reality Series – 3 : Do We Really Want Change {Part 1}?

Published October 4, 2014 by vishalvkale

Do we, as a nation and as a people, do we really want positive change? Do we Indians really want to tackle the ills that plague our society, our polity; thereby creating an even more vibrant and forward looking society than we currently have? And do we Indians really care enough to walk the extra mile that is required for us to change? Most critically, do we Indians have the intelligence, awareness, the knowledge and the guts required to face upto our problems and our weaknesses?

Why are we so gullible, for starters? I admit that we Indians are a highly emotional culture, and thus adulation is a fact of life for us. Furthermore, given the hierarchical nature of our culture, some amount of hero-worship is both a given as well as good for national health. But cant we draw the line between following and blindly following? How can we allow emotional appeals to cloud our views 100% of the time? More critically, why cant we accept that even the most charismatic leader can make mistakes, or require inputs? Why arent we geared towards taking that in our stride, instead of over-reacting to any criticism? Why the growing intolerance, which is just another sign of our gullibility? 

Let me take the example of our venerable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. First, let me clarify : in my opinion, he stands tall as one of the best Prime Ministers India has had, at least based on current performance. Further, this article is not about Shri Narendra Modi – but about you, the citizen of India. This is about us, the people of India.

Why is it that we cant take criticism of any kind of our Prime Minister, even when it is given in constructive and/or analytical terms? Why is it that such people get verbal abuse, and deeply offensive remarks and leg-pulling? Dont we have a Democracy? In a democracy, doesnt a citizen have the right to analyse the Government, and hold divergent views? Then why the innuendo and the abuse?

Further, the kind of jokes, WhatsApp messages, and social media updates that are in vogue – like the Hanuman Chalisa Parody of Shri Modiji – isnt this a bit too much, a bit over the top? Or the constant derogatory and bad-taste jokes on other parties and politicians? Fine, we dont like their performance as political leaders – but does that mean we can insult them? Is that what our culture, our values teach us – to be so cheap, so insulting in tone? How can something so insulting, so downright ugly in taste and tone, be termed as fun? What values are we propagating? Is this fun? Further, since when has at least my Indian culture been so intolerant, so brusque towards other thoughts and POVs? 

Why cant we as a people, as a nation, analyse the policies, the statements and the performance of our leaders {at least we the educated classes}, instead of just building them up in sheer hype, which may or may not be based on substantiable facts? Isnt that what education is all about – being able to analyse and understand for ourselves? 

This is evident in any number of examples from contemporary life in India; the example above is just one current trend that is in vogue and is easy to relate to, which is why I have used it. Let me quote another example : MODI  = Master Of Developing India. Now, on what basis, may I ask? The moment you pop this question, you get a series of short-term numbers – given that not one of the fundamentals of the Economy is as yet anywhere near what may be called optimal {let alone ideal},  or facts that do not hold up to critical analysis in the cold light of logic, inasmuch as it is too early to state, or due to the presence of other attenuating factors. 

The incessant repetition of such statements has its impact, and gives it rub on the person being hyped up, or rather, to be specific – it rubs off on the way this person is perceived by the people at large. And we do this incessantly, without any conscious thought into the fundamentals of the situation. What is more, we belittle anyone who challenges the trend, and shout him down as a collective, dampening the other person’s enthusiasm. And we do this without thinking that other person’s viewpoint through, or trying to combat that person’s POV with a proper come back. 

This has everything to do with change; it is the single most important parameter for change. The people must be open to the direction of the change; they must be willing to move in the direction of the change. Without this, change cannot happen. Without this, we stand the risk of a half-baked solution to the problems we face. 

India is a Democracy; and our culture is one of open thought, contemplation and analysis, where alien concepts, radically divergent views can co-exist in relative peace and harmony. This is a concept I will examine in detail in my next post; for this post, the learning is : Now that we have a good solid Prime Minister, the need of the hour is not Hero Worship. The need of the hour is letting him know we want change; letting him know clearly and in no uncertain terms that corruption, slow growth, scams are no longer going to be forgiven. 

He is already the PM; now there is absolutely no need of adulation. Blunt : he has been tasked by us to make India a better place. He has a job to  do, just like you and me. Whether or not you and I voted for him – he is now our Prime Minister. He is not  the PM of only those who voted for him – he is our leader. Set tall goals for him to achieve; ask for the systemic change we want. 

Remember that he is at the top of a long chain; and merely chanting the ridiculous “Jay Narendra Gyaan Gun…” or “Master Of Developing India” wont solve our problems. The entire chain in the Government needs to know that India wants change: 
  1. we want lesser corruption at both the lower and higher levels; 
  2. we want good growth, ease of doing business; 
  3. we want equal growth for all sections of our society – not just for the creamy layer; 
  4. we want a functioning and decent state and central government and their related organisations; 
  5. we want a free Lokpal, CBI, Police, Judiciary that can ensure zero scams 


We, the people are his power; if we go to sleep, he will find the process that same process of change a very hard and uphill task – and that is a simple fact. Why are we ignoring these realities?


The Biq Question that comes to my mind is, given that we as a people have stopped asking for these basics, that no one is even mentioning all these points, and are  focusing on idolising one man, and running after him in a show of blind unthinking faith : DO WE REALLY WANT CHANGE? Or do we want a reversion to our status quo, our respective comfort zones, where we can live without the encumbrance of personal risk to our businesses and jobs? 

Do we really want change? This is what I shall look at in the third part of this mini-series

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Or Clean India – Does It Meet The Problem?

Published October 2, 2014 by vishalvkale

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, just launched by our Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi is the in thing nowadays; everyone – well, almost – is interested and full of praise for this effort, which is beyond even a shade of doubt a very praiseworthy initiative as  such. People are, for the first time,  talking about cleanliness, about dustbins, about Civic Sense & about presenting a clean India. Our PM makes no bones about this – it is a long term initiative, and will require consistent effort and follow-ups for it to be successful. 

He is the second celebrity personality to endorse a clean India campaign, and the first person from the echelons of power. The first was, of course, Aamir Khan with his incredible India campaign of a few years ago. Viewed as a standalone effort, this current campaign is most welcome, and highly praiseworthy. We are indeed lucky to have someone at the level of the PM drive this. He has got the attention of the nation; everyone in the middle class at least seems to be in on it.

But look a little deeper – not at the PM, or his highly noteworthy initiative, but at the system and at your own selves. I respectfully submit that there is precisely nothing to be glad about, or be excited about. I equally respectfully submit that it is a matter of national shame, not something to gloat about. It is not a flippant matter; it cuts to  the core of our being, our habits, our attitude. Cleanliness has been called next to godliness in English; you dont pray to God without bathing and wearing fresh clean clothes even in Sanaatan Dharm {Hinduism}. Further, there are 2 aspects to this – the personal aspect and the system aspect, as I observed above.



THE PERSONAL ASPECT

In light of the above, if someone like Narendra Modi – who should be focusing on the economy, the Armed Forces, and other major aspecs – is giving his valuable time to it, then it is both a complete waste of time, as well as a deeply disturbing act that should cause our heads to hang in shame, not burst in joy and partake in flippant & senseless Whatsapp pledges to keep the nation clean! 

Do you really require the Prime Minister of your country to tell you keep your nation clean? Do you really require to be told to throw things in dustbins? Do you really require to be told to keep your city clean, not throw waste outside your home? Do you really need to be told to throw the waste inside the dustbin, not in its general direction? You dont clutter your home – then, in that case, if you throw garbage on the road, what does this behaviour say about you as a person? And, if you keep your home and the elegant hotels and cinemas you visit clean, why cant you keep your nation clean? This, Ladies and Gentlemen {including people of my family, who will read this on the Whatsapp groups}, makes you nothing but hypocrites. This is textbook hypocrisy. AND, if you require a person at the level of the PM for a reminder, then my friends, you are selfish as well as hypocrites. 

If I can carry an empty bottle all the way from Mumbra to Chinchpokli – some 40 Kms, get down from the train, walk to the dustbin, and throw it – why cant you? If I can carry a paper wrapper for my samosas all the way from Kalyan to Chinchpokli – 54 Kms, get down from the train, walk to the dustbin, and throw it – why cant you? Making senseless Whatsapp pledges, praising Modiji, idolising him does not make India clean, Sir and Madames / Madamoiselles! Change your attitude towards India, be selfless, view it as your home, and internalise cleanliness. 

You know something – I have just proved my own hypocrisy. You see, even I can recall a couple of instances when I have thrown an empty mineral water bottle after crushing it. But at least, I have the courage to own up to it in written for all the public to read it. At least I have been trying – for some several years now – to not clutter up my nation. I,  at least, have  been making a willing, conscious effort to clean  up my act. I, at least, do not want, need or require a Mr Narendra Modi to come and remind me to be clean! I much rather prefer that he runs my nation, and not sweep it! Shame on you, everyone! Shame on all of us!



THE SYSTEM PROBLEM

The scene : Kalyan Station. Location – just outside the Railway Station. Very near to 2 temples, two eateries. A huge pile of trash, rotting and stinking. This was the regular scene for every single day till the day I left Kalyan in September of this  year. Why isnt this clean, despite there being a municipal authority whose task it is to clean it up? Why do I, a Citizen, a tax-payer have to bear with the filth and the rot?

Similar scenes of neglect can be spotted across the length and breadth of India. Clean India requires an efficient and functioning garbage collection and disposal system. It requires a network of public facilities like dustbins, urinals etc. It requires a functioning and diligent municipal and governmental machinery in each and every state, district, tehsil, taluka and pargana of the nation. Do we have that? Far too obviously, we dont. 

What is this Government doing to clean up the act of the various State and Central Government bodies that we interact with daily? What is it doing to ensure that public servant get sincere and do their tasks? Please keep in mind that ensuring timely office attendance alone does not ensure that the tasks get done. What is it doing to ensure that Garbage collection will happen daily from every locality? If not daily, then at least on alternate days? 

Simply cleaning up the streets once is not the answer. What happens to the waste after that? Is there a cohesive action plan to deal with this waste on a regular basis? Is there an action plan to ensure that the people who are responsible for this do their duties? That they dont collect the trash and create a stinking heap somewhere in public? That the  garbage vehicle come regularly, and dumps the trash not in the street, but in a landfill? Where is the plan? I  cant see any!



IN SUMMARY

But, of course, people will say give NaMo time. He is new, he is fresh, at least he is trying, you cant judge in 120 days etc. Does this mean that no administrative reforms will get attended to? How will he change the system? Has anyone taken the trouble to ask NaMo? If not, then why not? Does it not concern us? So tell me, does this adulation mean that I cant even question the adequacy of the actions of my own Prime Minister? Is this the way Democracy is supposed to function? Does this mean that I cant even point out where his action may not prove to be enough and sufficient? Dont I have that Democratic Right?

Frankly, we are a people who throw bottles, wrappers, other waste on the roads, we spit pan on the road, we urinate anywhere we damn well please, ignore the non-performance of the Governmental staff {but that is another story, so I shall let it pass here},  and then take pledges for cleanliness! There is no need for pledges; just stop spitting, throwing waste, urinating in the open. 

It is possible – I did it. I was just like you all once in the not-too-distant past; I still am like you – but only occasionally. For me, the task is to move from 98% to 100%. And for that, I dont want, need or require a pledge, or indeed Narendra Modi. I know I have to do it, it is my home, my country, my nation. It is my duty as a citizen of India, my lovely India!

And if we require a person of the calibre of the PM to waste his time on this, shame on us! Especially since we  have a highly efficient person like Narendra Modi1. My very dear countrymen, we are all wasting his time as well as the nation’s time by involving such an august personality in such a frivolous exercise, time which could have been more productively used elsewhere! Shame on all of us!