DISAPPEARING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Our cultural baggage of filth and squalor

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A few days ago I happened to drop in at the new shop of the famous chain of “Bikanerwala” located next to the outlet of Reliance Fresh on the Sultania Road. The shop has its usual stock of numerous kinds of salty and sweet snacks for which Bikaner has lately become famous. Even the Michelin Star Chef Vineet Bhatia had mounted a programme on the TV on his visit to the mechanised factory in Bikaner where these snacks are prepared. However, what is important is that I was in for a surprise.

For the first time in Bhopal I did not see salesmen using bare hands to take out stuff from the jars or to weigh them. They were using plastic gloves – a very welcome sign. I don’t know how many times I had suggested to the owner of now famous sweetmeat shop near New Market to enforce use of gloves by his salesmen. Presumably, he could never forcefully insist on them to do so. They continue to use bare, in all probability, unclean hands to hand out edible stuff to the customers. They are just not bothered, or probably they are not aware, that their hands could contaminate the food stuff and transmit infection to their customers. Apparently, for their own convenience they wouldn’t go by what their employer says and have no qualms about putting the unwary customer to risk. Those who run “Bikanerwala” are quite clearly more enlightened and that is why their outlet is a welcome addition to the town.

The India TV channel the other day covered the pantry cars and kitchens attached to several well-known long-distance trains running from east to west and north to south. With hardly any exception the channel’s reporters found the conditions far from satisfactory. The pantry cars were filthy and so were the kitchens; the workers were sweaty and using filthy dusters and, of course,
handling food items with bare hands even though plastic gloves have been supplied to them. The kitchens were littered with waste, the utensils were unclean and cooking oil was seen being used over and over again. Millions of travellers are consuming these food items unaware of the filthy conditions at their source; nobody knows how many fall sick as no count or survey is ever made. Curiously the managers and supervisors were found to be taking everything very casually. In fact, the India TV survey was a disaster for the Indian Railways and their catering services. Cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation


The lack of a sense of hygiene and sanitation is apparently prevalent amongst us, especially in the under-classes, because of cultural factors. Our rural areas exemplify this. Migrants from there carry with them their cultural baggage – ignorance about cleanliness and hygiene is one. The Indian urbanscape has, therefore, not remained untouched by it. I suppose, it would take some more time for everyone to learn to imbibe finer sensibilities and shed some of the undesirable cultural traits. However, wherever this trait is likely to affect multitudes of people, like in trains and public places, the concerned should be checked, educated and suitably advised. Constant monitoring in this regard would seem to be of the essence.    

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Photos: From the Internet 
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