Vrindavan, 2017.09.15 (VT): Over the past ten years that we have been publishing this Vrindavan Today news site and blog (yes, it really has been that long!), we have had the opportunity to see several issues come up over and over again. Currently, several of these have popped back into the spotlight and we can see how little progress has really been made over the last decade.
Recently, the new DM and the newly formed Braj Tirth Vikash Parishad held a meeting at the VRI auditorium to discuss how to proceed on the PM’s Swachch Bharat Mission and make it work here in Vrindavan and Mathura.
Our little town, which is growing rapidly towards becoming one of India’s million plus urban agglomerations, of which there are 53 already, stands at number 352 in the rankings of clean cities that the Swachch Bharat Mission has begun releasing every year.
If the problem was awareness, then Braj would already be clean
It is sometimes hard to understand how an area like Braj could be so low in public spirited cleanliness, when it has as a part of its foundational ethos the concept of of its being God’s own playground, and that service to God means in great part making this playground suitable for his sports by keeping it clean and beautiful.
You can look at the Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta, verse 1.59, where I collected some verses from the Brij Sanskrit tradition that substantiate this ethos.
taj-jīveṣu ca varṇayan sama-rasaiḥ sambhūya santarkayan |
kuñjaṁ kuñjam anārataṁ bahu pariṣkurvan mahā-bhāvato
dehādau kṛta-helano dayita he vṛndāṭavīm āvasa ||
O my beloved mind! Take up residence in Vrindavan and constantly sing and hear the glories of Radha and Madhava. Describe those glories to the devotees who have dedicated their lives to the Divine Couple, meet with those who share the same taste for such devotion and discuss these matters with them. And go constantly from kunja to kunja, cleaning each one with great feeling, giving up all thought of the body. (1.59)
Well, there are many, many people who know this in Braj, and periodically we have shrama daan or some voluntary action where schoolchildren and spiritual and civic leaders descend into the street with brooms and clean a corner of Vrindavan for a day before it returns to its previous desolate state.
What then is the problem? Well, if we study the Indore model, it soon becomes apparent that the one thing that is missing here is the iron will to do something, and to see it through.
We have said before, cleaning Vrindavan is not an impossible problem and if the administration showed the proper will and non-compromise, then Swachch Vrindavan would already have happened twenty years ago.
Iron will and the evictions from the flood plain
Just look at what is going on now with the riverfront situation. For the past ten years it has been known that building on the flood plain is dangerous and illegal. Yet there was no one in the administration that was willing to enforce the rule of law. Now the NGT and High Court have made it imperative for the Administration to take action… and they will. The poor people living on the floodplain will be made homeless and destitute and those who have profited from the laxity of the Administration will in all likelihood be unaffected.
Will the Administration be thorough and carry out the NGT orders to the end? That will certainly be a surprise.
But those of us who tremble at the sight of sadhus and ordinary citizens who are getting the blunt end of the stick here, who soften at their suffering, must ask themselves: Has all this talk of Yamuna restoration been a load of drivel? Or will our will weaken the instant there is some human suffering, and our desire to have a pristine Yamuna flowing in a naturally scenic and beautiful environment in Vrindavan, for the benefit of all, can be tossed aside so that slum dwellings and hastily thrown together ashrams can proliferate on the flood plain?
The Administration has to act decisively, consistently and thoroughly.
Now the same thing applies to the cleanliness situation. It is quite clear from what we have researched of the Indore Model, that the iron will and discipline of the administration there has been the deciding factor.
Sure, we have plenty of songs we sing here and it would be easy to write new ones along the lines of the verses I referred to in my Vṛndāvana-mahimāmṛta commentary. But if singing songs were enough, Vrindavan would be as clean as Radha and Shyam’s flower kunj. It isn’t.
The Indore municipality made sure there were facilities, and they made sure that they were enforced. They broke the cleaning workers’ power to disrupt. They made sure there was door-to-door collection and they enforced it. They fined those who did not comply and gathered lakhs of rupees in fines which went to the cleaning effort.
But once the disciple becomes habit, then people start to become proud of the fact that there are not piles of garbage in every vacant lot, in every street corner, and that the drains are not clogged with detritus and dirty water. They start to see the change and they like it.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness. It is true. It is shaucham. It is a Hindu religious principle to be clean, inside and out!
It starts to become a question of civic pride and the citizens will discipline themselves. They will tell outsiders not to litter. They will tell their neighbors not to leave piles of old bricks and rubble in front of their houses. They will themselves report non-compliance because they will not be able to tolerate it.
If refuse bins are made available but never emptied and left to become hulks of hanging, rusting metal, then what will motivate people to use them? The problem is not so complex, but it takes an iron will to strictly enforce the plans that are put into place.
Doing something about the monkey problem
Finally, there is again talk of the monkey menace, and there is talk of removing stray cows and bulls from the streets. These street animals are also a big part of the problem when it comes to keeping the city clean. We will never have a clean Vrindavan as long as the monkeys are in charge. Something urgently has to be done and there is no room for sentiment.
Only an administration with an iron will can say: this has gone on long enough! Something must be done. The Simla project seems to be working, so let us implement it as soon as possible and implement it thoroughly.
When will the government and administration fearlessly create the facilities that make a peaceful and clean Vrindavan possible, and then enforce the rules until they become a habit for the citizens. There is no country on earth that permits its citizens to live in the midst of such filth, and there is certainly no place that hopes to attract tourists and pilgrims that can go on in this way.