In the west, most people may no longer need any day-to-day policing to check their anti-environment habits. Signs warning about fines for littering the streets and drains are rarely seen there. The people are generally aware about direct impact of such habits on their own lives. In the Asian subcontinent and other developing regions, the scenario is just the opposite. Most people either do not know or are not bothered about such things. The rest, despite being aware, follow the crowd thinking individuals cannot make any difference. They resort to the street when they don’t find anything around to keep the waste or get relieved. So, policing is a must. In the ‘Abode of Clouds’, Meghalaya, they have begun it. A few people were detained by Shillong police for throwing garbage at public places. This was, perhaps, unprecedented.

Let alone being scared, such offender would wonder if the cop detaining him has gone crazy! Is it an offence? Public places are made to litter. That’s why, in India, they say “do you think it’s a public property”, when someone does any harm to any private stuff. Homes are meant to be clean even if at the cost of the streets, drains, fields, auditoriums, cinemas, temples, schools, offices and so on. It will take decades for the people of the subcontinent to adopt green habits by their own conscience. Even most awareness programmes are an irony. Lakhs of packets of junk foods, plastic water bottles and hundreds of megawatts of non-renewable energy are put into the bargain to popularise green habits. Funded by many international organizations and the local governments, most of such programmes are held in air-conditioned rooms where most of the speakers and listeners are people who had listened more than enough about importance of environment. There is hardly anyone among them who would try and prevent a commoner from littering the street. He is either scared or skeptical about telling his co-passenger not to throw the empty water bottle out of the window of the running vehicle.

Shillong police should be commended for the recent job more than busting of a big racket of robbers. It may sound awkward, but police acting tough on common people for littering public places will yield wonderful results. Unlike other crimes where most accused become history-sheeters, green norm violators will be hundred times more conscious next time. They have been thinking that littering everything else than their homes is not crime. Once they know they might be branded as criminals too, they would stop doing it, again.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on September 6, 2014)

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