Society and Culture

Tejas Express episode: Don’t pull the chain on civic sense

 

Before the prime minister embarked on his mission to inculcate cleanliness across the country (Swachh Bharat), he obviously did not reckon with the inherent lack of civic sense among the majority of us.

May 29, 2017
Before the prime minister embarked on his mission to inculcate cleanliness across the country (Swachh Bharat), he obviously did not reckon with the inherent lack of civic sense among the majority of us. Sabhya Bharat (civilised India) should have preceded the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. How else does one react when one hears that India’s first high-speed luxury train has been vandalised on its first journey.
 
Launched with much fanfare from Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus last week, the Tejas Express boasts of impressive frills and features as automatic doors, nine-inch infotainment screens for every seat, beverage vending machines, vacuum bio-toilets, touch-free water taps and a secured gangway. But the manner in which some of the travellers behaved was in extremely bad taste. The toilet facilities were stinking within an hour of the journey beginning as people left a mess with no thought for hygiene or respect for fellow travellers.
 
When the train returned to Mumbai from Pune, the staff realised some passengers had tried to yank the customised LCD screens off, by pulling on the hinges. At least 12 of the high-quality headphones provided for infotainment screens were missing. Some of the screens were found to have been scratched. The quantity of litter was enough to shock even railway officials who are quite used to our less than civic standards in public places. When the government provides efficient and comfortable means of connectivity, the public has no right to trash it. In fact, the railways should enforce much stricter penalties for vandalising trains and littering.
 
This behaviour is not confined to trains. We have learnt few lessons in community living even as urbanisation grows at a rapid clip. So, we find that garbage is disposed in public places with no thought to the fact that communicable diseases for which garbage provides a breeding ground will affect all of us. Despite stiff fines, people still litter with impunity and use public places as toilets. The more rules are framed, the more people take delight in flouting them. To its credit, the government has made concerted efforts to spread awareness about the benefits of cleanliness, but this cannot work without people’s participation. Vandalising public property is seen as par for the course, especially during protests. If the anti-social behaviour seen on the Tejas is anything to go by, we cannot really blame the railways or any other public or private sector organisation for not wanting to invest in amenities which are difficult to guard and maintain. And that would mean that those who are law-abiding and civic minded will be denied the benefits of improved public services.
 
Hindustan Times, May 29, 2017

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