Comments on: Indians: inherently unhygienic? Indian writer touches third rail Perspectives on South Asian politics Thu, 02 Jun 2016 08:03:22 +0000 hourly 1 By: skamat Sat, 12 Jul 2014 05:18:25 +0000 The bottom line is that GOD cannot save India, leave aside the people who are interested in reforms.

By: Sunshine101 Mon, 17 Mar 2014 10:38:06 +0000 As an Indian myself I completely agree with you and Raghavan. I am born and brought up in India. Not in a city, from a less popular city in the nation and in the suburbs. I could see filth and dirt everywhere since my childhood but trust me I DID NOT get used to it. As they say Indians develop some form of immunity health wise, getting used to seeing filth, tolerating smell and dirt is something that I have struggled since my childhood. I used to wonder why the Trash bins (that you can sight only once in a while somewhere) always overflowing with filth and you can see that people throw waste around it. I have later worked in the US and get to see even other asian countries that are much more cleaner than India.

I have had done my own research on this subject and trying to understand the thought process of Indians and other country people who are generally clean. All I can deduce is this…

1. Trashing waste – Indians idealogy about cleanliness is totally different. One cannot deny that the religion and culture plays a big role here. There are people down south who religiously follow sweeping sand and mud along with trash every morning and then sprinkle water and then finally decorate with Rangoli. Even though they do this every morning (They do this as they think this will bring good luck and money) the place is immediately littered with their very own waste, sewage etc. Why not dispose the kitchen waste etc in a bin (even a cheap bucket with some plastic lid will act as a trash can) and then dispose it instead of throwing and leaving trash openly. The government itself is unorganized in sewage and waste processing and management (they dont care about this too much). You can see trash trucks with loads of trash overflowing in a open truck. If you follow the vehicle, you will for sure faint of smell, dust mites and filth. The most intolerable thing is how these waste carrying vehicles on a busy road spill those trash along the path it travels.

2. Toilets- I have always had BIG problem with this from childhood. There were times I used to hold on until I reach home just to avoid using any public toilets. Be it in a restaurant or doctor’s office, you just cant be so sure that it will be clean because even in expensive restaurants and hospitals you still see people that can spend money on food or medical care but do not care about civic sense to use the toilet clean. The janitors they employ are mostly from very poor and backward caste and they generally do not practice hygiene themselves so how can we expect them to clean toilets properly?? No amount of training will make them to clean toilets properly, its ingrained in their blood. Another problem is in India people use water in Indian toilets. And western toilets are popular only in recent 2 decades and most people wants to wash their leg even after using western toilet. Result, water everywhere in the floor and I hate to step in the toilet. And if its dry you can almost always sure to see drops of urine on the floor. Disgusting.

3. Spitting – Another most annoying and revolting thing that I cannot tolerate. I wonder why Indians have the urge to spit something. I understand that its in the culture to chew pan (betel leaves with various condiments) but these days there are some narcotic stuff added to these ‘zarda’. You can see everyone chewing this and spitting the red disgusting saliva in the walls, corners and pretty much everywhere. Even people who dont chew zarda or pan will spit just like that. I have never had an urge to spit unless I am sick with phlegm that I coughed it out. Otherwise I only spit while I am brushing in the sink. Still dont understand how filthy they can get and really dont understand how much disease could be spread and their beloved ones can get affected..

4. Household – Most middle class and lower class people do not have trash bin in their house/kitchen. They throw it in a bucket (open) or it will be just lying in the floor. No proper use of trash bags, trash cans with pedal opening etc. Indians think investing in a trash can or trash bag is waste of money (I am talking about even people who can afford). For those who cannot, a simple cheap bucked with lid and a shopping bags will serve as a trash bag but still they do not want to put an effort to trash properly/

5. Infrastucture – India’s infrastructure is no where near other countries in terms of basic necessities in the community. People will build a house before they even think about sewage waste disposal, trash disposal, rain water disposal etc. The problem is the government dont have regulations and real estate is a booming business. Even when municipality cannot support sewage, the build will still be built and sold and people live here dumping there sewage waste in the nearby water bodies. THIS IS REAL. The water bodies are heavily contaminated. Its appalling to see that Indians do not just think about health and safety.

Although India is a multicultural and mutilingual country, from top to bottom, east to west everyone in India seem to keep cleanliness as a last priority. IT IS INGRAINED in their blood.

Although I am born and brought up in India, I have hated the Indian habits on hygiene. Most stem from religious and cultural background and one cannot deny that. I try and keep my home, myself and surrounding clean ( I do not litter in public). I am sure many Indians are there in India that hates to be in this unhygienic situation and want Indians to have some civic sense and practice. Its not that hard isnt?

Those who blame that India is poor and thats why filthy , I do not agree with that at all. I have seen rich Indians that litter, urinate in public even when they can use a toilet in a near by restaurant for free or a public toilet (most will be filthy to the core and hence I believe men choose to urinate in a better place in public)

What about the street vendors that are throwing there waste in front of their ‘shops’ or vending vehicle? Why cant they throw in a neat trash bin or a plastic bucket and make sure it is clean. Why cant customers who eat in those eateries throw in the trash bin. Instead you can see all those vendors, be it a food vendor, flower or vegetable, they just trash open in front of their shops. why cant they trash it in a bin and throw it in a trash bin nearby or leave it there for corporation to pick up?

Its not that Indians cannot be hygienic and neat just because India is poor. Even when the government is not taking effort, on an individual level one can put an effort to minimize filth and dirt being disposed openly. We just dont want to do that because I sensed Indians feel a sense of pleasure when they can cause as much damage as possible or as much filth as possible. I cannot understand that pride and is very unhealthy.

On the contrast, if you ask an educated Indian about these, like you mentioned if a foreigner notices filth and mentions, they defend themselves and get embarassed immediately. THe first step in improving oneself and the nation is accepting the problem and put as much effort as possible to change this ingrained habit. It is something that is possible if Indians take responsibility on an Individual level. Because government is made of people in position and if those people are responsible in their personal level then change is possible.

Funny thing, I have seen Indians giving me a look when I tell them I am taking the litter in my handbag to trash it in a bin when I find one. They even tease me that I am “too much” and persuade to stay with that ingrained habit. We have to just fight hard and bring a change.

By: arviman Sun, 22 Sep 2013 20:13:32 +0000 I can assure you that it’s not something genetic since I’ve always been appalled by my countrymen’s lack of hygiene. Every time me and my friends go to the beach in Chennai, I always bring a plastic bag and clean up after the inevitable littering my friends would do. They’d look at me like I was an alien, but it never bothered me.

I think it’s just a fatalist attitude that affects Indians, perhaps Indian culture that deemphasizes material living has desensitized the general population to hygiene? Also, there might be a bit of self-segregation at work in India since the upper casteclass communities (such as Brahmins) generally maintain reasonable and often OCD-esque standards of hygiene. They also tend to stay away from the slummy areas and try to minimize social contact with people living in the poorer and often dirtier areas. Talking with people often only makes them angrier so I think people give up after a while. (I once tried explaining hygiene to an auto driver who kept spitting and he got infuriated and would spit more just to piss me off). It’s hard to stop such behaviour unless it’s done by legislation but good luck getting such an act passed in a democracy where people stick to their ways. I can only hope that as Indians become wealthier and get more global exposure, our standards change and a sense of accountability arises in our people.

By: deanbanner Sat, 08 Jun 2013 08:42:25 +0000 I guess every country has a bad side of the story but this is so bad. These public urinals are very public! I didn’t know they exist. What really make it look bad is as you noted, people don’t seem to care or notice. Still, India is a great country and has its share of impressive places not to mention their current fast-growing economy.
This might help things to get better over time. health-101/

By: nativethoughts Thu, 30 May 2013 03:23:12 +0000 It has become a fashion for most indians, to abuse indian people and society for NOT being as clean as the west..

But they never strive to understand the reason for the current state of india..

To understand this, we have to unnderstand the two different societies that existed in india when britishers left..

1. The English Educated Westernised indians, who lived mostly in metros under colonial administration ..

2. The Traditional Bharathiya people, who had the native administrative system, but remained colonial slave.

During independance, the britishers handed over power NOT to traditional bharath (whom they conquered), but to the Metro Indians, who are the class of people brown in color, but english in mindset, tastes and attitude..

These metro indians, were largely disconnected from traditional bharath, viewed the traditional india as backward, barbaric, uncivilised. Thus they divided this nation in to two – Urban vs rural, on the lines of the west..

In the west, the meaning for villages/rural are places where barbarians or uncivilised live.. the urban indians, had the same attitude towards traditional india which they saw as rural..

Thus for past 60 years, urbanisation policy has been thrust over vast stretches of traditional bharath..

The local administration system was de-recognized, and people were prevented from administering or organising themselves.

And more importantly, the metros like Chennai and Mumbai was expanded by dismantling numerous villages that surrounded it and the people of that village had no voice or choice over it..

So how will a nation organise itself when its own administrative system is paralysed, by the very same Urban Indians, who abuse it?

These people doesnt understand that, people cannot behave themselves, and that’s why a king/ ruler is needed to enforce order..

Suppose if the administration system of the west are crippled (like how urban india did to traditional bharath), will the people behave themselves, without police or officials?

We saw, how they behaved during choas of Cylcones..

The urban indians instead of abusing the victim, should infact feel guilty of destroying their native systems, and exploiting them..

By: skybrave Wed, 22 May 2013 19:06:50 +0000 Post and comments are comparing India with the so called wealthy countries:U.S,Britain etc.I’ll stick to it too.

warm climates have larger mass mobility than colder climates.Crowd means hygiene problems irrespective of ethnicity if not controlled efficiently by efficient govt.India for record always had inefficient governance be it in the pre indepedent era after the advent of foreigners or post independent era.

In the a fore mentioned non Indian countries industrialization,urbanization started much early and in fact some of theses countries is where Industrialization took birth.Urbanization,industrialization again means mass mobility.These countries had the advantage of smaller population on one hand and on the other hand got started on the public facilities required for mobil crowds(driven by industrialization). When you add to this the awareness campaigns like slapping people with fine for public nuisance and other controlling techniques it will naturally have disciplining impact on unruly(from our POV) minds. How else can you explain the alarming contrast between the presence of hygienic behavior of citizens in public places and the absence of the same in personal domain in many of these wealthy countries.
To sum it up it’s not just citizens it is the urbanization,industrialization,inefficie nt govt which makes public places look pathetic when it comes to hygiene in India.
Indians in private domain are the most clean people in the world thanks to their culture ,tradition.

By: Robert MacMillan Mon, 24 Dec 2012 13:26:00 +0000 I completely agree. And I appreciate the thought.

By: Woman21 Mon, 24 Dec 2012 13:14:35 +0000 Just one more thing Robert, I didn’t want to imply Paulo Coelho’s thought that you are trying to prove yourself to be superior. I understand that you were trying to improve and understand why indians are sensitive to such pointing out. And its not wrong because criticism can prove to be constructive and make us better. I rather want to emphasize on the last line of point 5:

your aim is to find out how other people live, what they can teach you, how they deal with reality and with the extraordinary.

I think following this can make your stay more enjoyable and fruitful. Just a thought.

By: Robert MacMillan Mon, 24 Dec 2012 12:36:27 +0000 Thanks for Paulo Coelho’s advice. Everyone compares, including you and me. The hard part is to try not to render a value judgment based on your comparison. Nothing I have written indicates or says that I have. I have traveled to numerous countries in a variety of capacities – journalism, pleasure, family visits, school trips as a child and more. Things are different in the next house, the next town, the next country. Writing about it is a good thing, not a bad thing. I appreciate your thoughts, and I hope that you continue to read and share your thoughts.

By: Robert MacMillan Mon, 24 Dec 2012 12:31:39 +0000 I get it; even I have a sense of humor. Vania — no, but if it will earn me 1.2 billion readers, consider it done. Even if it earns me 1.2 readers, consider it done!