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The elusive Civic-concious Calcuttan
Urban Legend
By Arjun Raj

“Calcuttans are the most shameless people, with a complete lack of civic sense,” says blogger, victorysugar. “There was a time when one was a proud Calcuttan... now I am ashamed to call myself one.” This is the opinion of one of the many residents of the city of Calcutta (Kolkata,) India, who are disappointed by its complete lack of civic sense. What is sad is that even the few who would fight for the city’s civic consciousness, are adopting a “if you can’t beat them, join them” attitude.

Today the common Calcuttan doesn’t think twice before spitting on the road or urinating on the walls of their city. A city that surpasses most in areas of literature, heritage and once - beauty, is now a city looked down upon for its complete lack of basic civic duty. The average Calcuttan will hail a cab, an auto rickshaw or a bus in the middle of the road with complete disregard for the people around him, he will push past others in a queue, he will tread on peoples toes, he will spit without worrying about who he might hit and he will even urinate in front of a strangers home, without the slightest sign of guilt, or even acknowledgement of the fact that he has done something wrong. A city where hygiene goes as far as sweeping the streets of (some of) its accumulated junk every morning, only to make place for the new lot of rubbish during the day, compliments of the “shameless Calcuttan”.

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The interesting thing about these civic-ignorant Calcuttans is that when travelling to a different place, they adapt to their cleaner surroundings with apparent ease, adopting the civic values that state has to offer. Sadly, even the most house proud people are so used to the present condition of the city that these civic crimes fail to turn too many heads or concern anyone enough to make a difference. They will march off to aid the injustice of a Nandigram, they will call a bandh (strike) at the drop of a hat, but who will teach these Calcuttans to pay their city some attention? Who will take the first step towards re-building the Calcuttan’s set of civic values? Who will initiate the change of the “shameless Calcuttan” to “The Civic-Conscious Calcuttan?” A Calcuttan like me? Uh… sorry, I’ve another article to write.

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A poorly conceived plan of putting metal dustbins (with divisions for waste that can be recycled and waste that can’t – esssentially a good idea) fails, when as scrap the metal on the bottom would bring a tidy sum of money to an enterprising street urchin… littering the sides of the road would not seem to be much of a sacrifice for the extra 20 – 30 rupees the metal brings as scrap. Thus throwing your waste into one of these bins is as good as chucking it on the street – there is hardly a bin with its bottom intact. Even service men and officers of Pollution Control testing centres lend a hand to the lack of civic discipline, and disregard environmental norms they are appointed to protect.
For a mere 20 rupees extra, bikes that would not pass pollution tests under normal circumstances, are given their license to kill, having the nozzle stuck into legitimate bikes, while leaving the camera on the offending bikers’ number plate. To the bike owner, its small price to pay, a new silencer costs aprox. Rs. 4000, re-doing the piston heads in the engine, Rs.3000.
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