Scene of Squalor

There is strong justification for civic authorities to bring out prominent public notices reminding people of Srinagar of some fundamental responsibilities towards their city. The situation seems to suggest that citizenry needs matters to be spelt out with the simplicity of a primary school text book, for anything more complicated would be out of the ken of the average man or woman in the street. The fits-and-starts nature of garbage collection in lower Srinagar could still be a case of something being better than nothing, but efforts big or small are bound to face defeat without public cooperation. Most of Srinagar seems to be suffering from compulsive littering habits and goes about in great style to ensure that it retains its distinctive mark of being a citadel of trash. Only a few years ago, the fashionable Residency Road, with its Regal Crossing, Polo View, and other branches, used to be an early-morning treat, with so-called high-end and trendy stores and shops having dumped all their rubbish into the streets before closing the previous evening. It is not clear whether the situation has been remedied somewhat in the city centre, but it can be said with assurance that elsewhere this inveterate behaviour is firmly intact, with impressive modifications.

Organised sanitation had got going in some areas where households and local committees had co-opted municipality staff long before the civic body started its sanitation fee scheme – for a minor consideration, municipal workers would cart off the contents of domestic dust bins, thus sparing the neighbourhood from unsightly heaps of uncollected garbage. But there are areas – and not necessarily only pockets – where residents and shopkeepers just cannot do without adorning the nearest street corner or lamppost with refuse from their homes and stores, even when municipal personnel come by for collection almost every other day. Evidently, owners – of shops, stores and homes – do not deem their establishments spic-and-span unless a neat pile of rubbish has come up just across the street, clearly visible from huge, expensively-stocked show-windows. It remains a wonder that streets and lanes lined with generous overnight donations of fruit-and-vegetable waste, discarded wrappers and paper bags, and indestructible plastic refuse, fail to disturb anyone taking an early morning constitutional – not even worshippers hurrying to mosques for dawn prayers who are supposed to know that cleanliness is next to godliness.

The government cannot escape blame for failing to pre-empt this situation – its half-hearted measures to provide large roadside bins in some selected parts of the city should have been given some serious muscle and extended in suitably-modified forms to other parts. 

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