Confronting litterers Indian style

I have written before about confronting litterers and how I am unashamedly cautious when people ask me “how should I confront someone who I see littering ?”. My usual response to the enquirer is “if in doubt, then don’t confront” as, in my view, putting yourself in physical danger for the sake of a piece of litter is just not worth it. That said, I’m sure that we all take our hats off to the likes of Alice Arnold and Boris Johnson who have successfully and very publicly challenged people they have seen throwing litter in the street.

I would now like to throw a slightly different perspective on this issue. I recently came across a group from India calling itself Awkwardness Unlimited. Their stock in trade is to “push the boundaries and take members of the public on an unexpected journey of flat outright awkwardness”. This involves them in “crazy pranks, hilarious reactions and awkward moments” – a touch of Candid Camera with an Indian flavour, perhaps.

But Awkwardness Unlimited are not in the business just of trivia and comedy moments. They also list social experiments and social awkwardness as part of their remit. And that’s where their “Stop it ! Do something !” video comes in. The link to this video is here – do have a look at all 4½ minutes of it.

The video challenges the status quo whereby few people in India seem to be prepared to challenge people who litter. And, in India, it isn’t just littering that is the problem. “Peeing in public” as they charmingly call it is endemic and Awkwardness Unlimited’s previous video entitled “The Pissing Tanker” (click here) highlighted this issue. I urge you to watch this very short (1½ minute) film too – it may make you laugh. It shows what I think must be one of the best examples of “let the punishment fit the crime” that you can ever dream of.

Anyway, back to “Stop it ! Do something !”. The team went about deliberately chucking litter on the roads to see what people’s reaction would be. Predictably, not one person challenged the litterer, not even a couple of policemen. In fact, in the night sequence at the end, the policemen even gave them permission to chuck their litter on the ground.

Was this surprising ? Well, you could reasonably conclude that it wasn’t, given the accepted norms in this wonderful, huge and, at times, chaotic country. The presence of litter bins is sporadic to say the least and there is less social pressure against littering than there is in the UK.

But these guys still felt the urge to make this film and they felt strongly enough about the issue to hope that their social experiment would make a difference in changing people’s behaviour.

It’s interesting to see the readers’ comments posted below the original article. There is lamenting of the absence of civic pride, criticism of government, criticism of the state that public urinals are kept in and of the low number of urinals and litter bins and, finally, disappointment at the lack of education in schools on these issues.

Is this all so different from where we live ? It may be so on the question of scale but I’m not so sure that India’s problems are otherwise that different from our own. The comforting point is that, in both India and in the UK, there are plenty of people who care about their littered country and want to do something to change it. If it were not so, then THAT would be a situation without hope.

And if you enjoyed both these films, do please think about how we can use the outstanding example of The Pissing Tanker to devise creative tactics and approaches to dissuade people from littering………..

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