Saturday, June 13, 2015

Playing Dirty 'Garbage Politics': BJP, AAP, Congress Risk Making Delhi Laughing Stock For The World

Politics is dirty. But what kind of people indulge in politics of dirt? Over the past week, the proponents of Swacch Bharat tried it in Delhi, the symbols of ‘clean politics’ also raked muck on the issue; and even Rahul Gandhi stepped into the cess pool. In the end, by poking their nose in the garbage of Delhi, everybody ended up showing the ugly face of politics in India.

The AAP and the BJP have been fighting each other over petty issues. Rumours, domestic issues, personal lives, academic qualifications, transfers, postings…almost everything has been a bone of contention among them.

But, when politicians put the lives of people at risk and hold the city hostage in their game of one-upmanship, it points to complete abdication of morality; it reeks of a maddening rage to destroy a rival even if people are the collateral damage. It is a damning indictment of the puerile, vengeful nature of the two political parties when a court has to intervene to remind them of their fundamental duty towards people.

Crisis, it is said, unravels the real character of a political party. What does the 10-day strike by sanitation workers that turned Delhi into a garbage dump tell us about the BJP’s Swacch Bharat campaign? Where were its workers, politicians and celebrities when tonnes of dirt lying on the roads of the capital of India? Cleaning the streets when they are cleaned for a photo-op, but watching from a distance when the streets are stinking is pure political and social media hypocrisy.

What was the AAP up to? Before entering politics, Arvind Kejriwal claimed that if politics is keechad (dirt), then one has to step into it to clean it. The crisis in Delhi exposed the hollowness of Kejriwal’s metaphors, the contradictions in his politics and philosophy. If Kejriwal is ready to let Delhi go to the dogs, pigs and rats just because he wants to score a few political points, he has suffered a precipitous fall from his perch.

Rahul Gandhi’s cameo in the middle of the crisis was a classic example of politicians wanting to have their garbage and turn it into political fodder too.

Note what the Congress VP told the striking MCD staff,"If you ask this government, you won't get anything. But if you come together and show your strength, your work will be done in five minutes. This strike is the right way to go."

Not a word to defuse the crisis, not even an effort to exhort the workers to keep the city clean and find some other method of protesting, but words that only add fuel to the fire.Just a year ago, sanitation staff in Bangalore had turned the city into a garbage dump because of their strike. One wonders what the Congress government would have said if Rahul had shown similar empathy for the sanitation workers of Bangalore!

It is difficult to find a hero in this crisis because everybody is a villain in the drama. The MCD could have easily invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to force the striking workers to resume their duty; the L-G could have released the Rs 493 crore for the salary of the staff before the court intervened and Kejriwal could have attempted reconciliation before the stand-off. But they instead only contributed to the mess with their dirty politics.

In many ways, the blasé attitude of our politicians to the crisis is a reflection of the Indian mindset. Most of us are callous about the way we dispose of garbage, we dump it anywhere—on the road, in front of  a neighbour’s house, in a nearby vacant plot—and do not care as long as our house is clean.

No wonder, people laugh at India and our inability to keep our surroundings clean. In June 2014, the Atlantic captured the problem with oodles of sarcasm and irony. In an acerbic piece, one of its writers called himself a trash tourist out a garbage trail:

“Around lunchtime, the van took us to the Taj Mahal of garbage: Mandur, one of the largest, nastiest, and most controversial landfills in the city. During the 2012 garbage strike, villagers near Mandur blocked the entrance to protest the landfill’s poisoning of local water supplies. As a result, the city pledged to cease dumping at Mandur by June 1, 2014. When that deadline came and went this month, furious villagers again blocked Mandur’s gates—until police dispersed the crowd and secured the site. Residents are now threatening hunger strikes, and the state government has given Bangalore four months to close the place down.

At 153 acres, about half the size of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Mandur is unlike any landfill in the United States. Heaps of garbage spilled out of pits, and stray dogs roamed through the uncovered waste. Even though I wore a facemask, I couldn’t avoid the overwhelming stench of methane, diapers, and rotting food. ”

If the AAP and BJP continue with their dirty politics and if people do not protest, it won’t be long before Delhi turns into a laughing stock for the world and a destination for garbage tourism.

On the streets and roads, garbage dumps have become acceptable parts of our landscape. We do not get shocked when we see stray cows, dogs and rodents feasting on piles of dirt. Garbage is part of our geography and chalta hai culture. Naturally, politicians do not treat it as a priority and are even ready to use it as a political tool. They take note only when people become aware of the health bomb in their courtyard and start complaining.

No comments: