Saturday, February 18, 2017

Swacch Bharat and Dog Poo

The day Indians start picking up their dog’s poo, India would have become Swacch. Before you start mocking my thought let me admit that spitting and urinating are far worse habits of Indians and far bigger endemic. I acknowledge it. But allow me to make a point. 

You will agree that most dog owners, especially the ones that have pedigree dogs, belong to the upper rungs of society. This cross-section of people (it is safe to assume) usually have better education, exposure and affluence. Then the natural assumption is that they would be far more involved in issues such as sanitation and cleanliness. 

The truth though is that this section of the society is probably not as sensitive as we assume they should be. And that includes me. I have a dog now and had one more a few years ago. For all the 11 years that Cheeku lived with us, I never ever cleaned up poo that he dumped on the streets, roads, and pavements. I was never responsible. And till about a year back, I never picked up after Pumpkin. But now I do. 

So what changed? As a stay-at-home husband who had an opportunity to live in Amsterdam for a year, I found too much time at my disposal and hence I signed up for dog walking services. In addition to walking a dog for a minimum of an hour, the most important part of the job was to pick up the dog’s poo and dispose it. Things were easier. Most parks and pathways had special plastic covers stocked solely for this purpose. One could also easily find a dustbin to dispose of the filled bags. That was my initiation. 

When we returned to India, I came back with my new habit. Every time Savitha, my wife, and/or I take Pumpkin for a walk, we ensure we take one of these plastic bags that we bring back home from shopping to pick up Pumpkin’s poo. Thankfully for us, there are many dustbins in our locality so disposing of filled bags is easy. 

We, probably, are an exception. We live in a relatively affluent locality with nice pavements and roads. Often during my walks, I find dog poo in the middle of the road and on the pavements on which probably an unsuspecting person would have stamped upon and probably slipped making a long stretch of poo. 

It is not that Indians don’t know about hygiene and cleanliness. We probably have very high personal hygiene levels but when it comes to sensitivity to public hygiene, we are uninitiated. 
Neither is it the first time we are learning about the importance of being or becoming Swacch. One of the important teachings of Mahatma Gandhi was cleanliness. Why do thoughts not translate into habits? What would make us sensible and responsible as far as public hygiene is concerned?

Probably, I am very pessimistic about India ever becoming clean. But then, if the crème-de-la-crème of the society cannot take responsibility of cleaning up after their dogs, how can we expect the masses to stop spitting and urinating? 

PS: A slightly modified version of this blog was submitted to Avenues Harrington Road, a monthly journal which appeared in print in the February edition. 

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