The Perennial Problem of India’s Litter

Keep our Kerala cities clean.

Keep our Kerala cities clean.

If you follow Twitter – I just started last month @BibiBaskin – some of you may have seen that a good friend and Irish Social Media expert @GregGantyFuzion teased me about my last blog (below). He claimed the picture in the blog is me in disguise!

It isn’t.

My job as M.D. of Raheem Residency is much easier than that of those marvellous ladies who clean Alleppey Beach every morning. So dear friend, @GregCantyFuzion just wait until I get my hands on you! Although I’m anti-violence neck-wringing springs to mind.

But that little blog raises the whole issue of litter in India. And although India as a developing country is clearly making a global mark in many ways – a burgeoning economy, a hugely successful space programme – India still has a distance to go in many areas of development not least of which is public hygiene.

When I came to India more than a decade ago I remember being told that Kerala was the cleanest state in India. I laughed. I looked at the rubbish that was strewn at random everywhere. Discarded plastic water bottles, paper plates – everything imaginable. Then piles of rubbish that had been swept into corners hither and thither and just left there. Since then

  •  I have watched middle-class families get out of their car on Alleppey Beach and calmly throw their waste paper on the ground. I have stood in front of them and picked up while they made a laughing stock of me.
  • I have seen busloads of students toss their used paper plates on the grass verge of the beach, pull away and leave it behind.
  • I have spoken to the Minister of Tourism of Kerala about the situation.
  • I have offered to put waste bins (with Raheem Residency emblazoned on them admittedly) on the beach.

And the facts are these: My beloved average Indian, whose personal hygiene is beyond reproach, has a palpable disregard for property outside his own domain and there is no social stigma or legal deterrent to counteract it. As for me, I am as powerless as a grain of sand in the vast ocean that is our incredible India.

But is the very essence of life itself none other than change? Because yes, I see change pushing its snout around the corner. There are now (horrid blue, plastic) large litter bins piled up close to us ready to be placed on the beach. It will take time to shift them across the road. And those marvellous ladies dutifully pick up after the locals every morning, a government initiative which started about five years ago. And here in my own little domain that is our hotel, there is zero tolerance of litter.

I set our Front Office staff an exercise before I left for Ireland on the last trip. I asked them to write down four things ‘that drive Madam mad’. It was meant as a test of how well they know me. It was also my parting shot at letting them have a go at me for all the times I may have ribbed them.

Litter was tops. There you go.

Our beach, Alleppey.

Our beach, Alleppey.