India needs ‘awareness warriors’. It is a fact that a large section of people live in poverty and in the effort to survive cannot conform to all the fancy first world standards that are expected of citizens. Indeed, many are not even aware of the whys and wherefores of basic regulations for their own benefit. As such, they indulge in behaviour that damages their own interests even more than that of others.
It is also a fact that, in the present day, there are just as many well-off people who, in their own self-interest, should be playing a role at the individual level to spread awareness among the poor of the many behavioural changes required for all round improvement in the quality of life. All of such people should take a little time out from their everyday concerns to take up this necessary responsibility. There are, particularly, an increasing number of elderly persons and government pensioners who have the time and leisure to go out and educate – mostly through their own behaviour – those in need of this essential knowledge.
For example, it is one thing for government to ban the use of polythene bags and try and enforce it through punitive measures. However, this ignores the essential role such bags play in the lives of the poor. These are even used to carry drinking water and the daily purchases essential to cooking food. It is very difficult for the ‘theliwala’ to sell his goods, such as vegetables, if the average consumer comes without a bag to carry them. If, on the other hand, young students or senior citizens were to show them demonstrations of the larger harmful cycle through scientific displays, screenings over laptops, even smartphones, ordinary people would make the extra effort necessary to make lifestyle changes.
It would also help if alternative, environmentally safe uses of such non-biodegradable materials are also taught. Just on the internet exists innumerable information of such uses developed by innovators in India and around the world. This can be collected and passed on. The use of plastic bottles as roof and wall insulation, as ‘air-conditioners’, as means of drip irrigation, etc., is just one example.
The government designs projects and programmes for people’s welfare but its employees are too few and overworked to create the ‘awareness’ element necessary for people to engage with such schemes. It is true that workshops are held to educate ‘trainers’ from among the community for a number of specific programmes. At the same time, though, just teaching people how to improve their lifestyle from what is already available to them can only come from motivated elders who have vast experience and the desire to contribute at the grassroots level.