17 July 2016

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

I have heard this phrase multiple times, yet I was surprised how little I had imbibed it. I thought I was a clean person, but something happened a few weeks ago and that made me realised how I had Stockholm-ed myself into being okay with dirt and filth.

Around the first week of June, the storm water drains outside our house were cleaned and the silt from the drains was removed. These drains are under the pavements. The persons removing the silt were different from the persons who would take away the silt. So after the desilting, the pavement outside our house looked something like this:

I had no qualms with this mount of dirt outside the house. I came in and out of the house with the same ease as before. One fine evening, the guard complained about the silt. He mentioned that if the same was in his area, he would immediately get it cleaned. He said that the persons incharge did not have ‘respect’ for us.

That conversation made me uncomfortable. I wondered why I hadn’t complained till now. The silt is outside my house, the silt is not supposed to be there, someone is obviously not doing his job and I am also happily sitting and doing nothing. I don’t care about anyone respecting me, but I felt terrible about not doing anything. 

Like all battles these days, I first attacked social media. At the moment, I was under the impression that the North Delhi Municipal Corporation was responsible. Accordingly, I wrote emails to the Local Municipal Councillor and the Mayor of the Corporation. I tweeted to the Chief Minister, the Swachh Bharat Twitter Account and posted on the North Delhi Municipal Corporation Facebook Page. I even posted on the Ex-Mayor’s Facebook page.

The Swachh Bharat team asked me to connect with the Municipal Corporation and Councillor, who I had already approached. Other than this reply,  nothing happened. 

I submitted an online grievance complaint on the Municipal Corporation’s website. On the website I noticed that there was a Mayor’s Helpline Number (9643096430). I called the number and registered my complaint. During the call, the operator asked a strange question - what was the width of the pavement? Was the pavement more than 4 feet? Instinctively, I thought the pavement was less than 4 feet [a measuring tape later proved me wrong, the pavement was actually far more than 4 feet]. The operator recorded my complaint and also gave me an additional number for recording sanitation complaints (1800 11 8700). From the call, I also gathered that the PWD might also be responsible. 

Accordingly, I called the PWD helpline (1800 11 0093) and registered a complaint with them. By this time, I was desperate to get the work done and was fed up of the organisational intricacies. The same is visible in my tweet to the Minister in charge of the PWD.

Still nothing happened.

I decided to explore the PWD website. My mission was to figure out the body/person incharge of the road outside my house. I needed to know who was responsible, so that I could pester them until they cleaned up. The PWD website had a “Roads with PWD” functionality which I thought was completely useless for the common man as it required me to fill up details such as zone, circle, division, sub division, category of road etc.

Finally, I found a page that had a “List of Desilting of Drain” and it contained reports of the progress of desilting in the various areas/roads of Delhi. The report was fairly detailed and had the names and phone numbers of the persons (junior engineers, assistant engineers and executive engineers) incharge. I now knew who to run after.

I sent he above images via WhatsApp to the junior engineer (JE) and later called him as well. He said that he will contact the contractor and get it sorted out. The silt still rotted outside my house and nothing was done. I let it go, because it was a Saturday. 

On Monday morning, the silt still lay outside my house. I sent new images of the silt to the JE. I wanted to be mean and say “Good Morning”, but I guess that wouldn't have helped anyone and it would only be a reflection of the filth inside me. The JE immediately called me and gave me the contractors number. The JE assured me that the work would be done that day. I spoke to the contractor as well and he said that he was on his way.

Finally, after a week of traversing through the web of various organisations and persons, the silt was removed. The JE called to follow up as well.

From the whole episode, I realised that:
  • I can’t afford to get used to bad things. I should be at unease when I see poverty, when I encounter corruption, when I see garbage on the streets, when I lie etc.
  • I can’t change the whole world. But whatever little I can do, I must do. So if something is happening which shouldn’t ideally happen, then I must do what I can do, to stop it.
  • Finding the right person is likely to get the job done faster, rather than shouting from the rooftops and tweeting/emailing everyone. I should do my research before calling out to others.
All in all, I am happy the pavement is clean (though still broken).

Here is Sheru chilling on the clean pavement:



Ganesh Mehta said...

From Shawshank Redemption

Andy is in prison and he wants to raise funds so that he can build out and improve the prison library. Andy goes to the warden of the prison and he asked for some funds, he declines and says “there is no money for it in the budget”, and Andy says “I would like to write a letter to the government every single week and see if they will give me the money to develop the library.”

The warden says “I don’t like your chances but you know what you write the letter and I will put it in the post for you anyway.” Andy writes a letter every single week to try and raise funds and after 6 years the government writes back and says “Dear Mr. Dufresne we appreciate your persistence and enclosed is a check for $200 to go towards the prison library and there’s some also charitable donations of used books you can use to develop the library”.

When Andy gets the letter and the check from the government he smiles and says “it only took 6 years” and one of the guards asks what’s he gonna do…“well, from now on, I’m gonna write 2 letters per week instead of one”. So he continues to write two letters every single week and a long period of time passes and eventually the government writes to him and says “Dear Mr Dufresne we appreciate your persistence, enclosed is a check every single year we’re gonna send you a check for $500 and here’s some more books and things that can go towards the library”.


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