A cardinal principle in administration and policy making is that one should never introduce a rule or law that cannot be enforced. The dangers are manifold — those who flout the rule get away with impunity, and the rest of the citizenry gets the message that laws mean nothing, they need not be obeyed. Take the BBMP’s latest decisions for ‘cleaning up’ the mess that the city has become.
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Residents whose dogs mess up the pavements and public places, are now warned that they will be fined and penalised. Walk with me a short distance — less than 300 metres — along the east and south walls of ISRO’s headquarters off new BEL road in north Bengaluru, and you will have to step carefully every five or six paces, to avoid a pile of dog poo.
Pause awhile, especially in the mornings, and you can see a steady stream of residents from the well-off dollar colony and RMV extensions, walking their dogs (fancy breeds, some of them) on a leash, and stopping every now and then, to let their pet do its business, at the base of a lamp post or on the concrete slabs of the pavement. While the animal is at it, the owner will look the other way, as if pretending that he or she has nothing to do with the quadruped that is messing up a public place. And then they push off, dragging the animal along, till it decides to stop again, a few metres on, to relieve itself.
It is disgusting, revolting and unacceptable — but how is the BBMP going to enforce the rule about fining the offenders? Will there be inspectors standing along all pathways, to keep track and nab the offenders and collect a fine? Round the clock? And what about the lakhs of strays? Who is BBMP going to fine when these strays relieve themselves all over the place? Isn’t the proliferation of stray dogs connected to the other obligations of the city’s municipal corporation?
Instead of announcing a ‘rule’ without ensuring that it is enforceable, the BBMP is only making a fool of itself. Have they thought about the possibilities of enforcing the rule?
Abroad, people have pets too, and they do relieve themselves, but I have seen even well-to-do owners picking up the mess and putting it in a bag and dropping it in the appropriate bin. Go to places of tourist interest, like Ely cathedral in England, for instance and you will find notices along the approach roads in the city : "Bag it". And people do.
We have cameras to monitor vehicles that jump the red light at signals. Can we have cameras, perhaps, as an experimental measure to catch the offenders whose dogs mess up the place, and penalise them (it is easy once the owner and the pet are photographed).
Many of us have cell phones that double up as cameras, so it should be possible to click a picture when one sees a pet defiling the pavement. Which means that citizens’ involvement becomes crucial in enforcing public clean-ups. Or perhaps, RWAs can lend a hand through vigilance (again, by capturing pictures) and ensuring that the offence does not go unpunished.⊕