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No love for the nation

| | in Bignames

Citizens’ apathy is dangerous

 

In 2006, I was in Germany to give a talk and attend a conference. I visited Bonn University to give a lecture. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the subject on which I spoke not that it is relevant to this column. The next day, a university professor took me around the city. Some places I visited left a deep impact on me. I was taken to a session where drug addicts recounted their stories. As we all know, these addicts take all kinds of drugs. It is sad that Germany failed in preventing its youth from turning into addicts.

Their sessions are attended by many health workers who give the addicts free syringes so that they don’t get other deadly diseases like HIV or even AIDS. Their explanation on why they were giving syringes to addicts was: “After all, they are our citizens.” Then I was taken to water treatment plant located at end of the city on river Rhine. The river which originates in Switzerland and enters Germany from Austria. The plant supplies water to the entire Bonn city. To keep the river healthy, Germans have built a system. But a few decades back, the river looked like the Yamuna river in the Capital. The river was a blot on Europe. Germans found an answer.

The cities through which the river passes have to maintain the water quality of the river. In other words, every drop of drainage and or sewage dumped into the river must be cleansed — treated properly — before it enters the next city. Let me explain taking the example of Yamuna. The river enters Delhi near Sonia Vihar water treatment plant and leaves near Greater Noida. The city’s entire waste is dumped into the river as it flows through Delhi. If we were to follow what Germans do, the quality of water at Sonia Vihar and the quality of water near the exit would be the same. What happens if Bonn failed in maintaining Rain’s water quality? The entire city attracts a huge penalty and it is the citizens who will have to pay.

From the treatment plant I went to WWII museum and saw several things including a tool that helped masons, during that time, to build a wall with broken bricks. Bonn was bombarded several times by the Allied Forces and many building were destroyed. Short of funds, city authorities rebuilt the city using broken bricks. ‘Not even a single piece of broken brick has to be wasted’ were the standing instructions. Believe it or not, the entire city came with without a single new brick kiln unit being opened.

Now, compare the German example with what happens in our country. Take the bricks for instance. Visit a brick kiln in any part of the country. One will get to see a variety of bricks being made. Ask the kiln owner for bricks and he will ask the grade of brick needed — Grade I, II or III. 

While Grade I can be compared with the best quality of brick produced world over, it is the size and the weight that most customers in India are cheated on. Engraving the name of the kiln deep into the brick saves on the weight.

Visit a kiln and watch. Or better still, make friends with the manager at the factory and ask some standard questions. ‘Where are the Grade II bricks headed to? Who buys Grade II bricks?’ The answer is not surprising. ‘Grade II is used for building Government building and Grade II is used for making roads. There is some truth in what the kiln manager says. Most of the Government building develop cracks within a couple of years and seepage during rains is  a common problem. On the other hand look at the quality of construction of private building. The difference is stark. Take a tour of homes of small time contractors and one will get to see the kind of material they use to make their own houses. The best quality of every thing — bricks, cement and iron is used. Of course, the money saved is from using sub-standard material in constructing Government buildings.

The same story goes for our rivers. It is not the Government who is responsible for our rivers getting unfit for bathing, it is the citizens who are to be blamed. We dirty and choke the rivers by dumping burnt or half burnt dead bodies, dried flowers, plastic bags and statues of Goddess Durga and Lord Ganesha during puja season. In Delhi, Yamuna has steel fencing on bridges to prevent people from throwing waste in to the river yet the river is getting dirtier by the day.

India’s tragedy has a long and deep history. As citizens we are first loyal to our caste, then our religion and finally family. Nobody even wants to answer the question — “When will we start loving India?”

 
 
 
 
 
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