Post brave moves like demonetization & GST, which were preceded by surgical strikes, war on black money – which led to Swiss banks disclosing details of Indian account holders, Jan Dhan, PM Awas Yojana etc, PM Modi has firmly established himself as a doer. He is one of the few politicians who has walked the talk. There is no doubt in our minds that he will win the next general elections, the one in 2024 & leave behind a rich legacy. Although he is known to be hands on, there are two issues (apart from beef ban) on which the Modi government has not lived up to our expectations & has behaved like another populist government, determined not to take steps which will inconvenience their votebank. The Opinionated Indian elaborates the two aspects which need immediate attention
1) Curbing Noise Pollution
It is monsoon time in Mumbai. The season of heavy rains, mosquito breeding, potholes & noise pollution. Although the first three aforementioned issues need to be dealt by the corrupt & inept BMC, the issue of noise pollution could have been resolved by the Devendra Fadnavis government.
The most eagerly awaited guest during monsoon season in India & especially the state of Maharashtra is Lord Ganesha – the destroyer of obstacles. The festival lasting ten days is celebrated with a lot of pomp & revelry across the state. The public celebrations of Ganesha festival was first started in pre-independence India by Lokmanya Tilak, as a means to get people together & spread the message of freedom from the British. Each & every bylane in Mumbai has its own Ganpati pandal. Every pandal has its set of organisers who work tirelessly to set it up days before Ganesh Chaturthi – the birth day of the Lord, appoint a priest for the daily aarti, buy modaks, control devotees thronging the pandal for a darshan etc. But the most vital part of organizing a pandal is buying a Ganesha idol & then immersing it within a period of 10 days.
The noise pollution aspect comes into the fray while transporting the idol from the shop to the pandal – when music is played by a DJ on loudspeakers throughout the way. The devotees dance on the streets to the loud music, several onlookers come towards the truck in which the idol is being transported to pay obeisance to the Lord & collect sweets.
Although it is a lot of fun to dance on the streets & revel in the festivities, people tend to ignore the pain which residents around the pandal, residents of societies situated near the beaches where the idol is immersed or of societies which fall on the path of the ‘visarjan’ (immersion) festivities have to go through. Samir, a resident of Andheri says, “The Versova beach is close to my house. On Ganesh Chaturthi & immersion days, the music emanating from the loud speakers is deafening. It starts at around 5PM & doesn’t stop till 11PM. Why am I forced to listen to it? Why do they need loud speakers? No where in the world will you see authorities allowing people to use loud speakers on the streets for such long durations” . Mr. Shah, another resident of the building says, ” The procession passes right through our building. I can barely watch TV or do any activity peacefully for those 5-6 hours. I find it difficult to sleep at night, as the noise is very disturbing”.
The pandals are generally sponsored by businessmen & the major pandals have political patronage to protect them from any legalities. Politicians across party lines are involved in almost every major pandal in the city. It is a convenient way for politicians to interact with & reach out to their votebanks. Although not much can be expected from the corrupt politicians of Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena parties, people expect the BJP to do the morally right thing & not shamelessly pander to their vote banks. Noise pollution arising out of religious activities is a serious issue which needs to addressed immediately, but instead the Devendra Fadnavis government in its zeal to allow religious festivities go unchecked is busy meddling with the judiciary by shifting Justice Oka from the case regarding silence zones on charges of being biased. Any step towards removing silence zones is a regressive step & will undo the work of several citizens who have worked tirelessly by filing cases to curb noise pollution in the past. The job of the government is to protect the rights of the unheard & weaker sections of the society as well Mr. Fadnavis & not just the majority!
Although the Ganpati issue is largely felt in Mahrashtra, the issue of noise pollution caused mainly due to loud speakers is a national one & PM Modi has done very little in this regard. Durga Puja, Navratri Dussehra celebrations too lead to similar issues across the country.
Hindus aren’t the only ones guilty of causing noise pollution. The Jains, Muslims, Sikhs too do their bit to aid noise pollution. Jain temples start playing music on loud speakers every morning at 5AM.
Mosques start playing azaan at 5AM & so do Gurudwaras during Guru Nanak Jayanthi celebrations. If you stay in the vicinity of these places of worship, you can bid peaceful sleep goodbye. Aren’t religious places supposed to be calm & quiet? Shouldn’t they be a place to de-stress people? Mr. Shah rightly points out “Other communities too have started taking out processions. Their argument being “If Hindus can, why can’t we?” Any argument against loud speakers being used for religious purposes is assumed to be a stand against that particular religion. Sonu Nigam suffered the wrath of “secular” Hindus & Muslims alike when he tweeted against azaan being played on loud speakers early in the morning as he desperately tried to get some sleep. The fact that he was just ranting against loud speakers & was not making remarks against any religion was lost on the dissenting masses.
2) Failure in Executing Swach Bharat Abhiyan
One of the first things which PM Modi did on becoming our PM, was to promote the message of cleanliness. Inspired by the ice bucket challenge, PM Modi came up with the novel idea of nominating celebs across the country to clean up streets. The move received a lot of traction on social media & got people talking about cleanliness & to stop littering on the streets. PM Modi has often mentioned that Swach Bharat is close to his heart. But all these steps haven’t stopped Indians from continuing to litter on the streets.
Post liberalization many Indians have had the good fortune of vacationing abroad. On their trips abroad, the first thing that Indians are told by their relatives settled there is to not litter, as it will lead to heavy fine. This warning is enough to deter Indians from littering or peeing in public. On the other hand peeing in public or littering/spitting in India attracts a measly fine of INR 200. The government probably doesn’t want to take the step of imposing heavy fines as it would hurt the poor. It is clearly a case of sparing the rod & spoiling the child. Despite several ad campaigns featuring celebs & other educational programmes, Indian citizens continue to litter & keep public places dirty. Steep fines & punishing repeat offenders to court mandated community work are the only ways to deter people from dirtying public places. The minimum fine should be INR 2000.
One may argue about implementing the idea, as there have been issues with clean up marshals being beaten up or misusing their powers in the past. But the government can’t get away from the fact that despite plastic bags being a major menace & being spotted across Indian city roads, there is no intention of banning plastic bags. Malls, departmental stores & small shops in most of the western countries give out only paper bags.
Plastic bags have been banned in several western countries. Owing to plastic bags becoming a major issue & contributing towards dirtying of our roads, the government has to take the drastic step of banning plastic bags in the country. Gradually people will get used to buying groceries, other items without the complimentary plastic bags.
The millennials – the new voters of India do not have the patience to wait for another 10 years, for a “change in mindset”. Post visiting western countries, they want the same level of cleanliness & peace in their country. PM Modi has to act on these issues on a war footing.