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Littered minds


April 20, 2016

Late one evening I and my colleagues were returning home from work. A traffic police stopped us to check for drunk driving, or ma-pa-se check. He inserted a new straw pipe in his breathalyser and asked my colleague who was riding the motorbike to blow into it. I was pleased that the policeman was using a breathalyser instead of trying to nasally smell my friend’s breath, which is what most police officials do during such checks.

Then, the policeman who had tested my friend disconnected the straw pipe from the breathalyser and tossed it on the road. There were other used plastic pipes lying about. I had not expected a policeman in uniform to behave like this.

A few days later, while I was riding the motorbike, I was stopped at the same check point. Like the last time, the cop asked me to blow into a breathalyser. When I did so, he looked at the reading and was about to toss the pipe again when I stopped him. I told him to maintain cleanliness and not contribute to pollution. So he held the pipe in his hand until we left. I don’t know what he did with it afterwards.

In yet another incident, I was driving home on a motorbike when I confronted a jaywalker. He was crossing the road by jumping over the concrete fence in between. I took him aside and asked him to behave responsibly. Just then a government vehicle stopped in the middle of the road to drop an employee and then zoomed away.

I approached the bureaucrat and said: “Sir, it doesn’t suit a government official to breach traffic rules.” He had seen me argue with the jaywalker. Another government officer pulled him away and said “let these people complain, nothing will happen.” It was then that I felt totally helpless and frustrated.

There are places where being responsible and following the rules make you feel stupid in Nepal. Waiting for public transport at many of the bus stops makes you feel silly because no buses stop there. Only an idiot in Nepal would wait for the passing vehicles to stop and allow you to cross the road from zebra-crossings. Keeping the paper-plate into your pocket after having chatpate instead of littering the street welcomes surprising stare from people around you.

We are busy blaming the ‘system’ for the mess in the country. But we do not for a moment stop and consider that we too are part of the system that we curse. Unless we become responsible, nothing will change, no matter how many billions in foreign aids we receive from wealthy nations.

I agree that a lot of things need to change here and that it is not easy. Our country looks like a puzzle, with everything out of order. But since we are the part of this puzzle we need to start by doing our bit to solve this riddle.

Here is an irony. A taxi driver calls traffic police corrupt when a policeman fines him for breaching a traffic rule. But the same taxi driver tampers his meter to fleece the passengers. Similarly, cooking gas supplier blames the government for misrule but he himself sells the gas cylinder at double the going rate. The cycle continues.

You must have noticed hundreds of brochures on the streets outside Supreme Court premises. They were distributed during the recent election of Nepal Bar Association. We have also seen the mess created by the haphazardly dropped pamphlets and brochures both in and outside SLC examination centers, offering this or that bridge course. We do not speak out against such public littering.

We have all contributed to jeopardizing the system but we never stop complaining. Civilized citizenry plays a vital role in institutionalizing democracy and contributing to national development. The next time you blame others for the mess, please check if you are behaving responsibly.