Van Gogh's Scream is a perfect example of the debilitating affect of sound on humans. Photograph:( Pinterest )
Implementation of decibel levels in India has been a herculean task by successive governments. It is when courts egg upon the governments that state kicks into action. Similar has been the case with noise pollution which is acknowledged as a source many lifestyle disorders but both state and communities fail to do anything about it.
It is because, despite hundreds of countries adopting parliamentary democracy and individual rights, the sense of community justice counter prevails on rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. The possible exception in the matter is Western Europe. It is for this reason that matters related to individual rights and liberties get associated with community honour and primacy of a particular community in the civic life.
It turns the debate on its head. The loudspeaker on a minaret will become a symbol of oppression but a similar speaker on a temple becomes a symbol of assertion in public space. This has been the tragedy of issues related to the environment, gender and individual choices in India. We live in a society wherein communities whip up imagined injuries of the past which it wants to be corrected in the present. It is in this binary that jallikattu, instead of a debate on animal cruelty, turns into Tamil pride. It is for this, despite court’s position on firecrackers, the majority of Hindus continue to scorn at this effort as minority appeasement. The best example is Triple Talaq where mullahas made it into an issue of Islam rather than gender justice. A similar fate will await noise pollution if communities do not appreciate the beauty of individual rights.
Such has been the ugliness of our political correctness that dissent in the context of public display of noise and number becomes a weapon to paint a person as elitist or prudish middle class who does not understand the perspective of a subaltern. It is one thing to understand the phenomena and another to justify it in the mainstream. It is one thing to understand the phenomena of Kanwariya domination of public space and another to justify the rowdiness which accompanies it.
Indians despite having a beautiful Constitution are turning into rude people who would rather be comfortable in the life restricted by imagined bruises rather than to strive for a cherished future. Noise pollution problem and the failure to check it effectively in India is symptomatic of this very larger malice.
Our failure towards the environment and civic decencies, which include speaking softly, is a direct result of schizophrenic parenting an Indian child goes through. It isn’t that school texts don’t teach civic virtues to children. It is us who fail our children when we ridicule civic and environmental virtues at home. It is then, what is taught in school becomes an information to be mugged so that exams can be passed with a flying colour. The virtue gets devalued and instead of turning into a habit and wisdom it turns into an information only to be used once a year. This where we Indians fail.
For the fact that the courts had to goad the government to implement the law is also a reminder that political executive needs to do its own job. Even the issue of illegal abbatoirs in Uttar Pradesh was taken up by the government when the court pulled its weight. It is about time we change.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).