Sunday, July 13, 2008

Are Indians more Pavlovian than most?

This is a story about a garbage bin that stands at the corner of our street. Here is a picture of it. But it used not to be like this. At one time it was a fine upright garbage bin on four wheels into which people deposited their trash and the company which collects garbage Neel Metal Fanalca (never mind the weird name) would empty daily. Over time it lost its legs, toppled over till finally the company itself came and delivered the coup de grace by upending it. This is supposed to signify (I am basing this on earlier and similar events) that they would no longer collect garbage from this bin and indeed they have stopped coming to this one (hopefully till it's replaced by another). However, and here comes the rub! What do we see here? Like flowers and coconuts deposited at road side shrines, people continue to present their offerings to the garbage god. That too, when it's clear that the truck has not been clearing this bin. The mound continues to increase on a daily basis. Now, why would they do this? Particularly when there are two more 'working' garbage bins within three minutes walking distance along two perpendicular streets? Are we to conclude that in a classic Pavlovian response, we continue to salivate (sorry, I mean deposit our litter) where we (almost) always have, even though it's no longer cleared? Perhaps there is a simpler reason -- we just don't care.... However, this story has a happy ending!! About a week ago I sent an email to Chennai Corporation complaining about this non-clearance of garbage. Today two gentlemen from the Corporation landed up at my door asking me to show them where the problem was. Within half an hour they had summoned the workers from Neel Metal Fanalca to clear the garbage and set upright the bin until the new one was delivered. What does it prove --- that the citizenry is far more irresponsible than some of the public utility organisations.


Rahul Siddharthan said...

Even when the bin is not upended, one sees garbage all around it, to the extent that it is hard to approach the bin. And the surrounding rubbish doesn't seem to get cleared by the Neel Metal people.

As you say, people don't care. What else are the streets for?

AMOK said...

Indeed sad. In another city, call it Pune, this blogger has seen overfilled garbage areas that are tough to approach. A cow or two feeds on whatever it can find. Among posh buildings and flats.

Do the citizens own the streets or does the Sarkar? Thank you, Sire Basu, for showing us that the citizens own the streets now, in spite of 200 years of the opposite training by colonials. Good work on getting the Chennai Corporation to respond so fast. It is a ray of hope.

Overall I do not agree that Indians are any more Pavlovian than most. In another city, call it Boston, I have seen trash in wooded conservation areas where large signs say "No Dumping". Why? Costs money to take stuff to the garbage dump and the dumpers don't live on the street where they dump.

Akilan said...

Its heartening to hear that the corporation people have responded so quickly. Your effort is laudable.