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Why Indians and for that matter any developing or underdeveloped country especially in Asian subcontinent and Africa are dirty? Slums across the world are alike. The difference is their number in different countries. The case of Indians is actually a mystery. Some of those, who create public nuisance, have houses as clean as the Taj. They don’t wear a cloth second time without washing it. They sweep and wipe the house twice a day. They get angry at naughty children for making the floor and sometimes the wall dirty. They flaunt the latest of fashion, use costly perfumes. But, on cleanliness, they cannot think beyond their own body, house. They think the rest is of ‘others’, not theirs – so they don’t bother throwing dirt on the road, bus stand, public ground, office and the list is never ending.

Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat or Clean India campaign has laid more emphasis on open defecation, which is not much of a problem in the North-east especially in the hill states of the region. The land being plenty, even the poorest villager can afford a modest toilet almost at zero cost by using bamboo and banana or betel nut leaves. Besides deforestation, big dams and rampant mining, the biggest threat faced by this bio-diversity hotspot is from plastics. Though the people in the region are way too different in cultures and traditions from mainland India, they have learnt from the latter the habit of littering at public places. The moment a person leaves his house, he thinks the rest of the world is a garbage bin and he can throw anything or even throw up, anywhere.

The basic problem is the lack of sense of belongingness. They only belong to the country when it’s time to hate Pakistan or cheer Sachin Tendulkar. Modi’s Swachh Bharat, it appears, hardly has considered this aspect of the filth around us. The so-called good families teach their children not to steal, never lie and respect the elders. They never teach the young minds to love the nature, to feel for the world and its people and ensure cleanliness beyond the boundary of their house. Loving the house and one’s family is no crime. But, at the same time we should spare some for the rest of the world where we breathe, drink water and live an entire life.

(Published in as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on October 15, 2014)

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