When shall we learn simple civic sense ?

L Kailun *

Garbage (Plastics) clogs Nambul Turel :: July 16, 2010
Garbage (Plastics) clogs Nambul Turel in July 2010 :: Pix - GNet CyberCafe

It is a common sight in Imphal and surrounding areas, every space is filled with filth, we do not spare the roads and nullahs, Nambul river, Naga river and now even Imphal river is drying up and getting much smaller. Why ? lets ask ourselves. Imphal market is full of paan sellers, mobile ice cream vendors, pop corn vendors, sugar cane juice vendors, temporary vegetable vendors occupying the streets in Paona nad Thangal bazars, they litter wherever they are. The beautiful Ima Keithel was once adorned by beautiful flowers, courtesy European Manipuri Association, it is not seen anymore, who has taken it ?.

Look at the stalls, shops and all the waste paper, dirt are littered around them. All the pavements are full of waste papers and filth. The government offices are no different. The walls are stained with paan, papers are strewn here and there. Every corner is filled with filth. All the fencing walls of government offices, schools and colleges, anything to do with government and public buildings are pasted with posters, banners etc.

It is high time we, in Manipur, learn to keep our homes, villages, leikais, leiraks and cities and town neat and clean by developing an adequate civic sense. We, Manipuris, boast of an ancient civilization and culture. We are proud of our cultural heritage. But has our civic sense also developed with our civilization? Here are a few scenes that show the reality about our civic sense.


A meeting to mark the Environment Day, a crowd of elite, sophisticated people had gathered to discuss what could be done to save the environment. Many long speeches were given about conservation, the factors causing environmental pollution, the filth and squalor leading to the degradation of the environment, and so on.

At the end of the meeting, snacks were served in paper plates and the cold drinks in disposable glasses. The people enjoyed the snacks and drinks along with tidbits of gossip and comments on the speakers, they also expressed their concern about the environment. No sooner did they finish this than they just threw their plates and glasses on the ground.

The clean, green ground where the meeting was held, became littered with the garbage presenting a stark difference between practice and precept!


Here is a group of college lecturers, standing in the corridor. These are educators who inculcate the right values in the youngsters. One of them disgustedly points out to the freshly whitewashed walls of the corridor that had already become stained with the mud imprints of shoes, chalk and pencil graffiti and paan spittle. The group expressed disgust and shock at such "uncultured", "unhygienic" and "unruly" behavior of the students.

At that moment, another lecturer joined the group. She had brought a packet of roasted peanuts, which she passed around. The discussion was now continued with the munching of the peanuts. And the lecturers, while discussing the lack of civic sense among the students, without any qualms littered the floor with the shells of the peanuts!


A wedding banquet, the wedding guests are all rich, classy people. Unfortunately, this display of class is restricted only to the clothes and jewellery. They show their true colours while eating. Every food stall has large bins for collecting the used crockery, napkins, etc. BUT only a small percentage of the guests are using it.

At the snacks counter, people after enjoying the sumptuous lunch or dinner just throw the disposable plates and bowls on the ground, creating unsightly garbage mess all around.

After having the dinner, most of the people leave their glasses and plates on the chairs where they were sitting or under them. Those who do use the bins forget that the cloth napkins should be put in the adjacent basket and dump the napkins along with the plates.


The staff-room of a school during recess time, the teachers are having their lunch. There is a gay atmosphere as the teachers exchange pleasantries, anecdotes about the students and their lunch. While eating, they are least bothered about the food crumbs falling either on the table or the floor. Even after finishing their lunch, they do not bother to clean the crumbs from the table at least!

After a couple of periods, a teacher from the same group grumbles, when on putting her daily notes register on the table, she finds that it has been stained by the leftover food crumbs.


A kitty party, the dazzling diamonds and shimmering silks are loudly proclaiming the "high status" of the ladies gathered. However, the status of their civic sense is not so high.

The paper serviettes and housie tickets are carelessly thrown down on the carpet or stuffed into costly crystal glasses in which the soft drinks are being served. Some of the ladies even wipe their greasy fingers on the upholstery of the expensive sofas.

The scenes mentioned above are just a very small glimpse of how well our civic sense operates! They just show that as far as a good civic sense is concerned, our so-called elite classes behave no differently from the masses. It is really a matter of disgust and shame that we have an extremely poor civic sense.

We lack a sense of hygiene and cleanliness. We feel that we have no responsibility beyond keeping our homes and ourselves clean.

We talk about our cities and other public places as being very dirty and filthy. We put the blame for all the unhygienic conditions on the authorities.


Day after day, the newspapers are filled with letters and reports about the filth and squalor in our cities and the danger they pose to the health and community hygiene. We conveniently forget that it is we who are responsible for these problems. Unless we cooperate with the authorities, we can never hope to see clean, green and beautiful cities.

A few months ago, during an evening walk, I met a friend of mine who had just returned from Singapore.

This was his maiden foreign tour and he was all praise for the neatness and cleanliness of the city.

He spoke excitedly about the high standards of cleanliness in Singapore and twitched his nose in disgust as he criticized the filthiness of our own country. While speaking, he absently took out a chewing-gum strip from his pocket, popped it in his mouth and carelessly threw the wrapper on the street.

I asked him softly, "Did you do the same thing in Singapore too? He took a few moments to register exactly what I was hinting at. Once he realized it, he was very embarrassed and said, "Oh, if I threw the wrapper on the streets in Singapore, I would be heavily fined." Fortunately, he did not argue further and realized his mistake. He vowed to never again throw any rubbish down.

We always put the blame on the civic authorities for the filth and squalor that we see around us. We do not realize that without the cooperation of the citizens, they are helpless. In fact, we do our best to put all their efforts to naught.

I have seen the Ima Market being thoroughly swept and cleaned by the police, NGOs etc many a time. But no sooner do they clean the place, then the people litter it with food packets, ice-cream cups, fruits peel cigarette butts, and what not! They have no qualms about even spitting on the recently constructed beautiful market! Within minutes, they convert a clean and shining place into a filthy one.

We do not even let our holy places of worship remain clean. I visited Govindaji Temple once before the visit of our Honourable Chief Minister, Manipur. Here, I was pleasantly surprised to see the effort that is being put in by the Trust to keep the place clean in the morning but an hour or so after the Honourable Chief Minister left the place, it started littering with all kinds of wrapper, disposable plates, glasses etc.

The same story is repeated to whichever place of tourist interest we may go. Out historical monuments, our beaches all testify to our most unhygienic habits. Some of us are so shameless and perverse that we even defecate and urinate in these places.

On the other hand, in many foreign countries, even the owners of pets can be prosecuted if their pets defecate on the streets or in other public places.


Does this mean that there should be harsh legal measures to inculcate a civic sense in us? Will fear of fines and prosecution make us behave well ? Will we not learn the civic sense voluntarily ? A recent news report was heartening. It proved that if we are motivated and challenged, we could change our surroundings for the better.

The Maharashtra Government has launched the scheme of a clean village award. The villages, which were once dirty, have become sparkling and healthy habitats, thanks to the involvement of the villagers. They consider it a prestige issue that their village should win the award. The villagers have voluntarily come forward and have made drainage system, toilets, and other basic infrastructure for keeping the village clean and healthy. In some of the villages the villagers have even whitewashed all the houses to give a more sparkling took to the villages.

This experiment proves that miracles are possible if the common man feels concerned and gets willingly involved in the community hygiene programmed.

Sometimes, fear may motivate people, as it happened in the case of Surat city. Once Surat city was an extremely dirty and filthy place. When there was an outbreak of plague, goaded by the fear psychosis, the citizens left no stone unturned to make their city one of the cleanest in India. Thus, it is clear that if we feel concern, then we can bring about a change. If we realize that our responsibility of maintaining a clean environment is not restricted to our four walls alone, we shall strive to keep our villages, towns and cities clean.

What can we do to keep Imphal city cleaner. Let us imagine a situation in Imphal where the vegetables vendors at Ima keithels and the shopkeepers in the bazaar areas keep to themselves all the leftovers vegetables/waste materials and not throw in the Nambul nullah and roadside. Imagine the mass consumers not throwing plastic and other materials after buying from the shops on the roadside. Imagine the pop corn vendors, paan sellers, sugar cane juice sellers etc not throwing their waste on the roadside but keep to themselves and place at designated sites. Imagine the residents of bazaar areas, especially Paona, Thangal bazars, Majorkhul, Kakhulong localilities etc do not throw their waste on the roadside and backside of their houses. Imagine the residents of Nagamapal and Waheng leikais not throwing their waste and filth on the Nambul river. Imphal would be a much cleaner and hygienic city and a better place for us and our children to live.

Each one of us can contribute his or her share towards achieving the goal of community cleanliness. If we are all involved, then the day is not far when Imphal will become a clean, neat and healthy city a wonderful place to live in!. Let us all rise up and make a start.

* L Kailun wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is an IPS officer and presently in charge of Law and Order-II
This article was posted on February 27, 2014

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