Bangalore recently made headlines for a very innovative campaign where the city police and a private FM channel joined hands to catch men urinating in public, those spitting on and littering the roads and also teasing women, and garlanding them.
Delhi, the Capital of the nation, has been dealing with the same issues for donkeys’ years now. Wherever you travel in the city, the sight of men wetting walls and the foul smell emanating from it are bound to follow you. Similar is the story with major roads overflowing with garbage and newly whitewashed precincts stained red with paan spits. The problem of roadside Romeos catcalling and leching at women is another concern altogether.
That made us in Metrolife wonder: What happened to the interesting campaigns our own Municipal Corporation of Delhi came up with, namely ‘Name and Shame’ and ‘Susu Kumar, Thuthu Kumar, Kuda Kumar and Poly Aunty’? Launched around the time of Commonwealth Games with much fanfare, these provided a good amount of publicity to the corporation, but what about results on the ground? Where did they vanish?Expectedly, we got a disappointing response from the mandarins. A senior North Delhi Municipal Corporation official, who did not wished to be named, said, “They did not take off. We were keen on taking these creative campaigns forward but there are many problems in Delhi, first of them being political intervention. Wherever you start fining people for littering, if they have ‘connections,’ we start getting calls from local MLAs and MPs.”
The story about curbing public urination is sadder. This official literally surrendered to the menace saying, “If we can’t provide enough public urinals, we can’t humiliate people for piddling on the roads.” He explained his helplessness thus: “Right now, there are around 2,000 public utilities in Delhi. We know that, considering the burgeoning population of the city, more are required, but people are totally against utilities being set up close to their homes due to the crowd and foul smell emanating.”
An East Delhi Municipal Corporation official further lamented, “We had tried maintaining these urinals ourselves but the multiplicity of agencies involved – DDA, DJB, Revenue Department etc – made it a mess. Then we handed them over to private companies in lieu of profits from advertising but they complained of low turnover and we ran into litigations. Now many of them are lying closed because otherwise they’ll become a den for charsis (drug addicts).”
But what about the public then? How long will the Capital of the nation suffer the ignominy of being home to a very visible nuisance and public hazard in the form of public urination, spitting and littering? Prabhleen, an activist with the Safe Delhi Campaign, run by NGO Jagori, says, “These are simply shameless excuses. If these authorities can’t find a way out to keep Delhi clean, it’s their problem, not ours.”
“There are several models available of making public urinals commercially viable, not just abroad but in India as well. I guess all these models are awaiting attention from our municipal bodies. And also urinals are set up in commercial/public areas and not residential colonies. As for ‘political intervention,’ the process of ridding Delhi of this ‘VIP culture’ has to be started somewhere. Better our corporations get on with it!”