Friday, December 21, 2007

Civic Sense

Why is it that thousands of people in India are utterly incapable of having even a minuscule sense of civic duty? This isn't a rhetorical question, I genuinely want to know. I just cannot understand the reason why people here litter all the time, seem completely oblivious to traffic laws, and never ever think about the convenience of others.

I used to think that lack of education was the problem. People aren't educated properly, so they don't understand the significance of civic sense. But I don't think that's the problem anymore. Everyday, in school, I see students throwing empty packets of chips on the roads, and aluminum foil wrappings on the floors of classrooms. And these are students of a school that is regarded as one of the best schools in Delhi. One of my closest friends studies in IIT now, and he too has to be forced to pick up his ice cream stick from where he threw it on the road. So clearly, education is not the problem. Then what is it? Why do people not know that you can't throw your garbage on the roads?

And traffic violations! I know one of the fundamental problems for the utter disregard for traffic laws is the lack of driving tests before granting licenses. Anyone who wants a license can get a license. That explains why so many people insist on going at a speed of 30 km/h in the right-most lane, or treat a traffic light that just turned red as an encouragement to speed up. But it doesn't explain why people enter the left or the right-turning lanes when they they want to go straight, or why they stop at the side of the road at the end of a concert, clearly in everybody's way. Why would people do such things which are very clearly wrong? Why would they think that it is okay to use the wrong side of the road when they want to avoid a U-turn or when their side has traffic??

In Kanpur, the situation was worse. Most intersections didn't even have traffic lights, and now that they have been installed, they may as well not be there for the all the attention that they get from the drivers on the roads. The roads were choked with polythene bags and old newspapers. Delhi is better, I agree. Many people do abide by the traffic laws, and many people do go around holding their trash until they find a dustbin. But in so many people, civic sense just doesn't exist. That is why people people take up two parking spots for one car in a city that never has adequate parking space. That is why my classmates insist on standing at the doorway and talking, so that you are forced to step over all their feet in order to get out. What I don't understand is the reason for this complete non-existence of common sense

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