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Hopefully this could soon be a statement and not a question as far as public responsibility towards cleanliness is concerned.

With the G20 mood pervading the country, especially the urban centres, there is a flurry of activity to put forward the country’s best foot (and face). The thing is, like most things, a well turned out city is as much the result of government attention as it is about responsibility at the citizen level.

In India, till a decade back, a behavioural change direction was never the pivot in the sanitation policy. Thankfully the Swachh Bharat hype, which drew snarky comments from the doubters, has ushered in a shift in public awareness. Even if it still leaves much to be desired. Only a strong and sustainable implementation with community participation can reflect a visible change.

No pontification can replace direct involvement of the real stakeholders – the people. By taking such deliberations to the people there is a twofold benefit. It expands the involvement area and more significantly, throws up solutions from within the problem areas.

The unedifying image of a Gurgaon resident casually lifting decorative potted plants from the roadside and loading it in the boot of his luxury car was a reminder that much remains to be done to create the responsible attitude which will create a beautiful city. While decorative plants by the roadside are props, the real element is entrenched with responsible public. While that image was a sorry reminder of a casual, even criminal approach, there are examples of better tidings.

If one visits the upgraded India Gate lawns at New Delhi lately, the change in public behaviour cannot be missed. What was littered with ice cream wrappers and plastic waste, is now a tremendously improved ambience. This ambience has not come about from the skies. It is the same people who are suddenly more conscious of not doing anything to spoil the clean spaces. Of course better signage, litter bins, watchful staff and fear of penalties have helped but that alone never deterred those who cluttered the same place earlier.

Instilling pride by improving services and upgrading infrastructure goes a long way in making the public more responsible. And undoubtedly, tourism is one of the first gainers of such a change.

(The views expressed in the column are of the author, and may or may not be endorsed by the publication)

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