We Want the Prime Minister to Clean Our Roads!


The man for everything!

The country was celebrating 50 years of its independence. A number of events were held to mark the occasion. In our college, several art, essay, speech and debate competitions were organised; I had participated in nearly all of them. In the debate competition, the speakers had to discuss and argue India’s achievements and failures, both of which were in plenty. I had spoken in favour, and still remember a major part of my speech. I had highlighted the economic, scientific and technological achievements of the country, and stressed that the responsibility for progress of the nation also lies on all citizens. One member of the judges panel agreed with that remark; and later in her speech, put it bluntly —

“Do you want the prime minister of the country to come and clean your roads?”

I still remember her words as she had spoken them, and the intensity and disgust contained in them. I remembered these words especially when the newly elected prime minister did come down to clean the roads. Great is the will power of the citizens of this country! They could make the prime minister and chief ministers to clean their stations and roads. Wonderful indeed!

If there were any self-respect in us, we would not have allowed that to happen. The moment the prime minister put forward his intention, we ought to have felt humiliated, embarrassed and ashamed, and sprung up in action to clean up our cities ourselves. But wait, I said ‘if’ and that is a big ‘if’. Self-respect is not an attribute that we possess, and we have already long forgotten to feel ashamed or embarrassed. So we wait for our prime minister — to clean our roads, to persuade us to perform yoga (or any physical activity for that matter, I suppose) and to read books (remember his initiative as the chief minister of Gujarat).

Why not? What is wrong in that, you ask. Afterall we did stand in queue for 2 hours that day, didn’t we, and pushed the button. We did vote him to power. Isn’t he responsible for our welfare? He is a public servant, isn’t he? Yes, my dear friend, but like every public servant he too is supposed to have certain job requirements, the set of tasks he is supposed to do, and certainly it does not include ‘everything’.

This shamelessness is an integral part of the Indian psyche. We wait, we wait endlessly for a divine messenger to descend and uplift us from the sorry state we are living in. You might remember that episode from Wagle ki Duniya, where Mr Wagle decided to clean his apartment himself. Soon we find his neighbours requesting him to clean their apartments too. And it goes on till the day arrives when Mr Wagle is seen cleaning all houses of the society! Such is our attitude. We do not move a bit, and ‘adjust’ ourselves to the circumstances. However, as soon as people with a different constitution turn up and decide to bring about a change, we want them to do everything on our part as well.

You ask what Amitabh Bachchan has done for Marathi cinema; I ask, Sir what have you done for it? They ask, what has IIT Kanpur done for Kanpur climate, I ask for their contribution. It is not about getting involved in blame game; instead, it is simply about reflecting on our own actions and contributions before questioning those of others.

But surely, we have become used to this lifestyle; we invest a little capital — whether money or vote — and then everything is supposed to be taken care of. We want someone to work for us. We want a genie, who would do everything for us, while we lie on sofa, watch TV and eat pasta.

Yes, that is true; we want the prime minister to clean our roads.

photo credit: theglobalpanorama Narendra Modi via photopin (license)

26 thoughts on “We Want the Prime Minister to Clean Our Roads!

  1. Tomichan Matheikal

    Yes, shamelessness is an integral part of the Indian psyche. But the question can also be asked what have our leaders really done for the poor and the marginalized? That's a debatable question.

  2. Amit Misra

    Their argument is that technology could be developed that would swallow up air pollution; then we would not have to worry about pollution from vehicular and industrial emissions.

  3. Amit Misra

    Matheikal Sir, you have put a very valid point. In fact, social welfare is an area where government-citizen cooperation is most apparent. Self-reliance and self-development, education of children and general masses in lower economic strata, rehabilitation after disasters and so on are the areas where various NGOs have worked in cooperation of non-member volunteers. This complements the government initiatives in these areas. It accelerates economic and social progress, and reduces the burden and dependence on government, which can direct its resources to other directions.

    Our argument here is that just by public interest, a lot of problems could be averted, such as, traffic congestion, vehicular emission, communal harmony. In these areas, citizen participation would bring larger dividends as compared to any government scheme.

  4. Amit Misra

    Sure. Let us take care of ourselves and solve our little problems on our own. Let the government worry about hospitals, bridges, space and defence. Let us start today.

  5. Saket

    I liked your style of writing. You conveyed your point well. The last line of the post is very well placed.

    I appreciate the PMs taking the broom in hand as a symbolic gesture and do not expect him to do it on everyday basis. However I wish he always keeps a stick in his hand just to make sure that the guys paid for keeping the roads clean, hospitals functional, streets crime free, and borders secure do their job properly. Not each of us really have to do every job. We need to only co operate and abide by the laws , like not littering on the roads, and we are fully entitled to expect that the contractor and bureaucrats who are paid to keep the garbage disposal system functional, do their job without cutting corners.

    I think the PM knows to use a stick and has been using it well so far.

  6. sunaina sharma

    Every job requires certain protocols and with every job a certain level of dignity is attached. But having said that, what we see the 'great' leaders of our country doing is more of a show or a 'spectacle'. I seriously doubt whether they care omfor our welfare. But should we blame them? No. Why? Because we voted them in power.

  7. indu chhibber

    I think we as a nation,can work only if there is a stick behind us to flog us.Every time I go to the cantonment and come out I cannot but compare the presence of order,cleanliness and decorum inside and outside.The same Indians at both places,but what a contrast.

    Also consider the efficiency of a Government service employee and a private businessman,the zeal with which they function.You will but,agree with me.

  8. Amit Misra

    Yes Sunaina, in the end we the citizens only would have to think of our welfare, instead of depending on authorities for everything. At least we could take care/responsibility of problems which are well within our capacity.

  9. Amit Misra

    There is no scope of argument on this! We give long discourses on the philosophy of works, but on practical ground, our mantra for functioning is only 'stick behind us', as you so aptly phrased. This aspect has been touched in my article on T. N. Seshan , and would be the subject of few upcoming posts.

  10. Amit Misra

    Thanks Saket for your kind appreciation.

    Yes, that way broom serves dual purpose — to clean surroundings, and as a stick (from the other end) 🙂 You have summarized everything so well! Things would become so simple and easy if people just do their own part. Let us work on this and set up an example before others.

    You may also like to have a look at Indu Chhibber's comment below. Indeed, great people think alike!

  11. Sangeeta Mishra

    Once, late Indira Gandhi started going to parliament in horse-carts to save petrol. Such gestures are symbolic and are done to send positive messages to commoners. But poor us! We expect more than we contribute. What's the harm if our prime minister does the cleaning job with a broom? Well, then it'll become a great reality show on TV and we'll enjoy it like anything with, of course, a platter full of pasta.
    Very well written post. The irony strikes the right cords.


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