Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Public Campaign for Civilized Behaviour

Wonder why my shirt and the coat I am wearing today have some red patches. First time in my current tenure, I took a conscious decision to take out time for a 10 min walk so that my legs do not cramp up from the hours of sitting in office. In my rather heavy office charge, I had to beat my own reservations in finding a 10 min break but today I made the beginning.

I had just ventured out of my rather poorly designed modern government office and was greeted within a minute by a red liquid stream that was spit from the window of one of the floors above by an avid Indian beetle leaf (paan)chewer. I was furious and looked for any sign of a man whom I could catch for this crazy misdemeanor but I was just being too hopeful.

Having returned to my chamber, I am full of work but I thought why not start after spitting out my anger in the form of a blog post (that hopefully some may read as well).

I am working in a Department of the Indian Government that spends millions of rupees each year to create public awareness on important issues through TV, Radio and Newspaper Advertising. Is all our effort and the amount of tax-payers money we spend on public awareness making a difference? Perhaps people are more aware about several diseases, job employment programs of the government, need for tax compliance, etc..but what about promoting civilized behavior in our rather crude (and prude) Indian mindset.

Everyday, I find plastic & waste thrown all over the park where I go for morning walks, believers happily plucking flowers in public parks to please their gods, people spitting merrily on roads, residents in colonies encroaching gleefully on public land as a matter of right, supermen and superwomen driving cars and bikes like killers running away from police, poor laborers pasting posters over public and private property, macho men stealing steel from the flyovers and road signages etc. The list is endless and the culprits are not restricted to a particular SEC class. I cannot claim that school and college education could have made a difference, for clearly, it hasn't.

So could there be a way of making society more civil and sensitive? Arguably there are several ways.

Political parties could make moral education as part of their party manifestos but that will only happen if other issues cant get them votes. Clearly this option is a long way away.

Perhaps schools could start teaching moral science in a different way and move away from classroom lectures to organization of road shows by the students, cleanliness drives to educate onlookers and walkers by, etc. Well hope the education boards will ease up the curriculum to allow such liberty to students and teachers alike to indulge in such wasteful ventures.

Another way could be asking our religious preachers to include a reference to such civil behaviors in their daily sermons. Perhaps, the gurus and maulavis with their committed followers (who are ready to kill for monuments made out of rocks and stones)could bring about a drastic change in our everyday behaviors.

Lastly, the government and the corporates (I learnt about Corporate Social Responsibility during my MBA) could also spent some budget apprise people of the need for civility in daily lives.

To talk of our office and the government as a whole, instead of spending all the money to advertise on age old government schemes in a rather self glorifying manner, may be a small percentage could be spent on spreading the message of good habits without the traditional baggage of a minister's photo or a spectacular statistic claiming government's success. I fondly remember the good old Doordarshan used to telecast a program called "Zara Sochiye" (Just Think), where it highlighted some good civil behaviors that one should follow. Sadly, it is an era of market economy and our Doordarshan has no space for such free advertising.

I truly believe that India is a great nation. However we can become a developed one in the years to come only when Indians learn some basics of civilized life. A 5000 years old culture unfortunately has a lot to learn too. I hope a mix of above approaches would take care of our collective misbehaviors and one day every parent would be informed and equipped enough to tell his/her children "Child..never spit your paan on someone's shirt and coat!"

PS: My friends from Pakistan, Bangladesh etc please do not use this blog to show India in a poor light..just use 'Replace All' function to change "India" with the name of your own country and then copy-paste as your own blog about your country!!