Public hygiene, like individual freedom, is a concept that is culture-specific. Despite the ‘Commit No Nuisance’ signs that appear on many of the walls in this vast country of ours, the writing on the wall is happily ignored and doused to great ironic effect. On late Sunday night, two gentlemen committed nuisance by urinating inside the premises of a Metro Rail station in New Delhi. What was truly surprising was the fact that they were caught in their act by personnel of the ever-vigilant Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) who subsequently handed the culprits over to the police.
Section 308 of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) Act 1994 states, under the subheading of ‘Prohibition of nuisances’, that ‘No person shall (a) in any public street or public place (i) ease himself’ (it is overwhelmingly a male phenomenon) — the prohibition falling perilously under the same category as the banon carrying meat ‘exposed to public view’. But as far as one can observe, such a rule isn’t quite observed by the bladder-challenged citizenry as one would have expected. Last year, when this paper conducted a campaign against public urination in Delhi, the NDMC was proposing to levy a Rs 1,000 fine on public piddlers. One wonders what the damages were for Sunday’s two anarchists. On the other hand, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) insists that it cannot crack down on public urinators as there are not enough public urinals in the city.
So in a way, Sunday’s arrest of Baljit Singh Sabharwal and Harjit Singh is a landmark case. Whether this will lead to gents in the city walking about with a flushed look and keeping themselves to themselves is too early to tell. But as far as we are concerned, the good work has started and we feel immensely relieved.