Education for civic sensitivity | Let us pledge to keep our surroundings clean

Education for civic sensitivity | Let us pledge to keep our surroundings clean
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Social ethics can exist only if the community has a civic sense. Having civic sense makes an answerable citizen. The life of a town gets reflected through the civic sense of the people of that place. Respecting laws, good etiquette, paying taxes, keeping our surroundings clean count in making good civic sense. There are unwritten codes of conduct and rules in each society, which should be followed in letter and spirit. We all love to keep our homes clean and beautiful. Do we equally strive to keep our surroundings clean? It is a common sight in almost all cities and villages in Kashmir, people throwing garbage on the road or in neighborhood. Recently few posts were uploaded on social media where attendants had thrown leftover rice, tea waste, and slice pieces in the washrooms of the wards in newly constructed Government Children Hospital Bemina. I entered one of the public washrooms at railway station, it was in a very bad condition, bolts were damaged, flush was choked, polythene bags were thrown in the flush and tap was rotated in the anticlockwise direction by some miscreants. On boarding the train I observed all type of rubbish thrown by people in it, mobile charging points destroyed, laptop stands  in train unscrewed, few glass panes smashed.

Now I shall present the picture of downtown Srinagar. People like to throw the household waste on the periphery of the road which has become a breeding ground for dogs. Poultry wastes, leftover food at functions, bulk construction waste material from dismantled structures which is loaded in trucks thrown into river Jhelum from Ali Kadal, NawaKadal and Zaina Kadal bridges. These activities are conducted during late night hours or early morning. If these activities go unchecked time is not far away when river Jhelum will be turned into a cess pool. The first step administration should take is to put a fence the two sides of these bridges and install CCTV cameras. It should be followed by a vigorous awareness exercise. Administration, civil society can make use of the marriage halls and other community centers for creating mass awareness by displaying films carrying civic messages. Use of polythene bags by the vegetable and fruit vendors goes unchecked, how sensible it would be if each person takes a cloth bag while going for shopping. Recently I purchased a blanket, the shop keeper bundled it in a big polythene bag. I took the blanket out of the polythene bag and advised the shopkeeper to discontinue use of these bags. Post - Covid we observe a lot of disposable items being used in our marriage and other functions. Even in college and university canteens tea and snacks are served in disposable  cups and plates. Have you ever introspected after use where does all this disposable go; it adds to global pollution. We have to make least use of use of these disposable items.

Plastic pollution is another area which needs attention. The current scenario of public places, for example, is disheartening. There are spit marks, urine, vulgar graffiti, random garbage and overflowing sewers at every nook and corner of the streets. As human beings such dirt and grime is not acceptable to us but it still exists around us because we accuse everybody for it and want someone to remove it.  Dengue – a disease which has proved deadly for many and has spread across the country – is caused by the absence of sanitization. No one is to be blamed but ourselves for this bad condition. At home or in work places, we put the waste in the bin and teach our children to do so, but overlook it when the child throws it on the road. This dual behavior on the part of parents creates a split in the personality of the child. 

With few lessons delivered at school, not much attention is given to inculcate civic behaviour in the children. Faced by tough academic challenges to outshine in exams, both teachers and parents do not bother to educate children about the importance of civic sense. While preparation for examinations is given top priority, value inculcation, character building and focusing on building ethical standards in children regrettably are not given adequate emphasis in our school syllabus. The situation was not always so grim; we were never as uncivil as we are today. Civility is visible by its absence. Why this deterioration in civic sense? Self-containment could be the plausible reason. We do not care about the needs of others. We have become statistical thinkers and act on profit and loss lines. We are entangled in a cocoon of self-centeredness. This attitude is detrimental for society in the long run. Earlier it was felt that instead of punishing sinners, sin could be prevented by raising virtuous children; this being the joint responsibility of parents, teachers and community.

Civic sense also means respecting other’s privacy or sense of freedom. Very often we come across cars parked in non-parking areas, people not wearing a helmet or seat belt, people unscrupulously barging into a queue, cars driving past red signals. All these are etched in the psyche of our people as small mistakes that could be committed when there are not traffic police personnel around. These are not small offences and this complacent attitude definitely will land us in trouble one day or the other if left unchecked. My cousin travelled to London. Back home she told me what impressed her there. ”Not once did I see anyone breaking into a queue or throwing garbage outside.” A few years ago, when Tsunami hit Japan and there was complete power failure in Japan, the world was shocked by the tragedy but also appreciated at the conduct and discipline  of the people affected. When the city was plunged in darkness, people left the shops, leaving the merchandize on the counters. No one took advantage of the darkness.

There was no looting or ransacking of stores. No wonder Tokyo is among the most affluent, progressive, safe and orderly cities in the world. Presently a whole generation is in the threat of becoming trapped within a pseudo value system chasing a ‘materialistic world.’   Becoming rich fast and amassing wealth seem to be at the ‘core’ of all things. Scholarship and academic distinction have taken a back seat, illiterate affluent classes are seated in the front row. In  pursuit of ‘material success’, ethics and values have been relegated to the list of forgotten things. Selfishness has superseded generosity, apathy for sympathy, negative and destructive thought for positive and constructive thought. It is high time we did some self-analysis and started sowing the seeds of civic sense in our future generation. It is caring and sharing that marks a person shine. It is these very qualities that make us responsible human beings –one with good civic sense, to put it simply!

Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education , University of Kashmir

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