An Article – CLEAN UP! INDIA!!
While travelling in a train, say anywhere to anywhere in India, one is bound to see the railway tracks on both sides, raked with mounds of filthy nylon polythene and plastic garbage – mostly the used teacups, thermacol plates, nylon covers, spoons and so on….., all thrown from the moving train and strewn around……The scenic beauty of the green fields are slowly taken over by different shades of white debris — the hazardous plastic stuff.
The Indian Railways are happy to own the railway tracks as their own – but not the plastic garbage lying around the tracks. Same thing is with Railway Stations also. The premises and platforms very much belong to the Railways and are maintained neatly – but not the piled up plastic or polythene garbage in the vicinity. That may be because the Railways may believe that the onus of clearing the garbage lies with the State / Central Pollution Control Board, Municipalities or local bodies. After all, the main concern of the Railways is to run the trains and to bother about the comfort and convenience of passengers.
The IRCTC Ltd. which is an offshoot of Indian Railways, is the main culprit of the plastic show. While taking care of the passengers’ needs, this unit keeps supplying food and beverages invariably in disposable cups and plates and eateries like biscuits chips etc., in plastic / polythene wrappers. Mineral water and cool drinks like Coca Cola Pepsi Cola etc., come in plastic bottles or in nylon pouches which are mostly left behind in the train itself or thrown out of the windows or doors of the moving train adding some colourful boundaries to the railway tracks. The IRCTC believes that their commitment is only up to the level of catering to the consumers’ needs. Once this is done, their onus ends there. It is not their concern if the bottles or cups are thrown out. If the surrounding area is polluted by the waste cups and bottles, it is none of their business. They must have thought –“What for the Pollution Board (State / Central) is there? It is their responsibility to reduce or control pollution”.
The Pollution Board in turn, is happily contended with conducting awareness programmes, holding seminars, workshops, slogans and poster contests. What about its role in actual pollution control – particularly on the railway tracks throughout the length and breadth of India? Why are they not serious about the land, soil and water getting polluted by the everyday addition of plastic deluge? Probably they believe that Railway tracks and the surrounding areas are the exclusive property of the Indian Railways and therefore the plastic / nylon and such other pollutants also belong to them. The Pollution Board has to remain silent and may choose to close its eyes.
Everyone must have seen that even the ordinary banana vendor on the street keeps an empty basket readily on his cart meant for collecting the peeled banana skins and other waste materials so that they are not thrown on the street. Similarly, roadside eatery shops also have garbage bins placed nearby, exclusively for collecting the plastic bowls, cups, spoons, tumblers, wrappers, nylon covers, napkins, etc. Neither the customers nor the vendors throw the stuff on the roads. The IRCTC should also adopt the same practice. In aeroplanes, the airhostesses after serving tea coffee snacks etc., come back and collect the trash. It should be done in the trains also. Most importantly, the trash so collected should not be thrown out of windows or doors of the train – instead it should be stacked inside the train itself and are to be emptied when full, at the next railway station.
The Highways (both State and Central) are well aware that roads can be laid in a better way with trash plastic / nylon / polythene materials and for a stable, durable and a long lasting effect, it has to be in the ratio of 1:9 – that is one part of plastic to nine parts of tar, if not more. The department keeps advertising and keeps giving calls to general public through newspapers and media for collection of plastic, but seldom take any effort to lift the stuff available on railway tracks, roadsides or landfills. It is anybody’s guess that every year, with the very first shower of rains, the roads give way to potholes and get damaged heavily – causing untold miseries to all levels of road users — be it pedestrians, bullock carts, car, bus, van, truck or heavy vehicles. Road mishaps due to bad roads are a regular feature every year. In some States, compensation to next of kin in case of casualties or to the injured may be there but no allocation of funds is made for road repairs. About the pitiful condition of roads after the rains – less spoken much better!
Reverting back to the main issue of clearance of plastic debris, Marina Beach of Chennai offers a solution. The Beach, the second most beautiful in the world, was once a den of debris. But in recent years, it got a facelift. Once a year, the Military Personnels, along with volunteers from high schools and colleges gather at the Marina and assign themselves dedicatedly to the cleansing ceremony. They work for a day or two and leave the Beach spick and span. Taking a cue from this, Indian Railways can make an appeal to National Cadet Corps, Home Guards, Guides and Bharat Scouts and request them to lend themselves for clearance of debris on railway tracks on a chosen day (say 22 February of each year, the world thinking day!). The collected trashes should be stacked at nearby railway stations. Similar to the warehouses of Food Corporation of India, or Petroleum tankers of I.O.C., B.P. H.P. etc., there need to be miniature version of super storage facilities at strategic places for the plastic nylon trashes collected from various railway stations. The Roadways can use them for laying roads at a later point of time.
Blue Cross and PETA are also to be invited to get involved in this holy crusade as good number of cattle, goats and stray dogs, drawn by the aroma of tasty foods, come running to grab the leftovers, which are wrapped up in nylon / polythene covers. The animals unaware of the perils, eat the food and with it the nylon sachets also get sucked in which ultimately, choke the animals to death. Very Cruel! But who is to be blamed? The passenger who threw the nylon packet? The vendor who sold the food wrapped in nylon covers? The people who prepared such a tasty food and lured the animals to death? The innocent animals which ate the food and thereby swallowed the nylon also and invited death upon themselves? So let PETA and Blue Cross be roped in.
The task may seem to be heavy but nothing is impossible, as “POSSIBLE” is embedded in impossible. Only a concerted effort is required. Cooperation and integration of action from all bodies which contribute to or redress pollution – is all that is needed. Indian Railways, IRCTC Ltd., Pollution Control Board, Highways and Roadways, Blue Cross, – all these players and finally we the people need to act in tandem.
Come on India! Choose a day! Be it 2nd October or 22nd February! Plunge into Action! Clean Up soon.