Delhi went through its first experiment in pollution control in January. The Delhi government of the Aam Aadmi Party was admonished by the court after a particularly smoggy spell in the capital. It had to come up with solutions fast. The "Odd-Even" plan was put into place and has now become a part of the lexicon of Hindi-speaking Delhi since no one has found corresponding Hindi words to put in place. While feeling a bit uncomfortable with allowing English phrases to define policy matters concerning pollution control it has made people slowly realize that it had to do with car numbers. There are always some who are rebellions or careless. Some were caught and penalized. Others, encouraged by Arvind Kejriwal's strange ways, asked flouters of the rule with folded hands to “kindly” observe them. Anyhow, at the end of the fortnight, the people of Delhi congratulated themselves, the Delhi Govt congratulated itself , and it was almost official that no one had a clue whether the polluted air had improved because of “odd-even” or whether the temporary smog had simply cleared itself up. What did get a loud applause was the limited traffic on the roads which made traffic jams almost non existent. However, that was just a side-effect and cannot be a permanent solution to smooth traffic movement unless people voluntary give up driving cars in large numbers.
The Swachh Bharat campaign needs to take some clues from the “odd-even” experiment, which combined compulsion with common benefit. Despite corporates and government bodies being compelled to fund the Swachh Bharat campaign, and a levy being added to taxes across the board, citizens have not been sensitized or compelled enough to keep their surroundings clean. Customarily clean localities and community spaces, including villages, remain clean. Habitually dirty areas have shown no improvement either by civic bodies or individual citizens. The latter have come to believe that it is their divine right to throw plastic bags, bottles, used wrappers or spout paan, phlegm or snot everywhere, leaves taps running, allow garbage to spill over onto roads, and destroy railings and pavements to suit their purposes. Plants embedded for beautification are trampled over and urination against walls along main roads is still shamelessly practiced.
The Prime Minister needs to be a little dictatorial about citizens observing cleanliness. Otherwise, his fellow citizens who seem to demonstrate every day that they do not have pride in their country seriously undermine all the glory of India that he tries to project abroad. One deeply wishes that nationalism could be encouraged to be reflected in simple ways like keeping one's environment clean and pollution free rather than by shouting slogans in praise of India.