A grassroots initiative to clean up the streets of India
December 13, 2011 7:49 PM   Subscribe

The Ugly Indian: Ordinary people trying to clean up India's streets, starting with the city of Bangalore. Associated Facebook page. BBC coverage of the initiative.
posted by peacheater (6 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
These are common sights all over developing countries. When you have weak social contracts ("meh, why should i care? It's not my stuff") and a underfunded public sector that doesn't invest in sanitation, the ugliness piles up.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 8:18 PM on December 13, 2011

One day in Hyderabad my brother joked that they should institute the old elementary school rule of having each person pick up one thing at the end of the day. Guess he should have sold an article to Forbes, "If I were an Indian litterer..."

The force of the language is certainly arresting, and reminiscent of Mukul Kesavan's book The Ugliness of the Indian Male.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:24 PM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]

Some of the things I like about them, which I find refreshingly different compared to most such initiatives I've heard of in India: they're completely anonymous and seem to be trying to stay under the radar for the most part; they seem sensitive to the concerns of the poorer folk in this whole story -- the garbage collectors and ragpickers and poster stickers; and they urge people to consider each situation separately, with an eye towards what are the main sources of the trash and litter in a particular place, and what specifically could be done to target them.
posted by peacheater at 9:19 PM on December 13, 2011

One area that has always stood out ever since it was completed is the Delhi Metro (and I believe it happens for the Calcutta one as well) - that the very same people who litter their own backyards still manage to find the civic consciousness (supported by fines and spotchecks) necessary to keep the Metro and its platforms spotless. On a side note, Singapore used to be filthy but it took draconian laws to get it to where it is today.

Another point about Delhi afaik (I simply don't recall Bangalore's system) is that there is no municipal waste collection system, its still informal given the size and scale of the city.
posted by infini at 9:22 PM on December 13, 2011

Delhi has a municipal waste collection system, of course. It just doesn't work, that's all. In terms of waste collection and management, most of Delhi comes under MCD, and the rest under NDMC (plus a tiny bit under the military body responsible for the cantonment area).
posted by vidur at 9:46 PM on December 13, 2011

It took a while for me to work out what specifically I liked about this, beyond the obvious civic sensibility. So far the best I can do is this: To a great extent we are all complicit in the broken social and civic contracts that hamstring the country. Part of the problem is that between the ridiculous bureaucracy of post-Independence socialism and the overwhelming weight of day to day life, people seem have had a sense of agency and self-determination beaten out of them.

This kind of local action is a far more positive reaffirmation of agency than the Anna Hazare protests, which are more of the same "someone else's problem" attitude. Enough "the government should...", more "I will...". Fixing the bureaucracy is of course still important, but this is a good first step towards reclaiming a sense of control over our lives.

but yeah, some public bins wouldn't go astray, MCD
posted by vanar sena at 10:39 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

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