By now, everyone knows that Nagaland is the second dirtiest state in the Northeast and the third dirtiest in India ~ the Swachh Survekshan 2018, the cleanliness survey conducted by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, says so. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because we have done nothing to be clean, keep clean and stay clean ~ except for some Nagaland Government-organised programmes from time to time, as and when directed by the Central Government, which are basically photo-ops to establish that Nagaland too is into the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan. Then, of course, there are numerous “social works”, again from time to time, especially in urban Kohima and Dimapur, organized by sundry colonies and/or unions, organizations and clubs, indubitably with the best of intentions ~ but they are infrequent and the penchant to give “wide publicity” to such “noble” deeds through the local media reduce them to photo-ops. Cleanliness is a constant effort and activity and “once-in-a-while” measures that we undertake are just a grain of sand lost in the vast whirlpool of the dirt we generate every minute. Unless cleanliness becomes a reflex action for us, in no time we could possibly earn the disgraceful distinction of becoming the dirtiest state in the Northeast and in India ~ and staying that way. But all is not lost ~ now that we know exactly where we stand, we can take it on from here if we are committed to cleanliness as a way of life and living and as the only option for good health, whether we win any competition or not. Although no town in Nagaland has made it to the top 50, the very fact that Mokokchung occupies the 57th rank and Tuli not far behind does give the other towns of Nagaland a ray of hope. Cleanliness is so much more than throwing garbage into waste-bins. The idea is to learn from Mokokchung, which has always been in the forefront of being clean, keeping clean and staying clean. Perhaps, the people of Mokokchung didn’t know terms such as “social capital” but it was always Mokokchung’s strength for decades. And, this social capital is founded on a very positive strong sense of ownership. It is also social capital that propels the cleanliness of our villages. However, it is missing in our towns particularly Kohima and Dimapur hence they are our dirtiest towns. For various factors, mainly migration from across the state and the rest of the country, which has created deep-seated attitudes and mindsets of a negative sense of ownership, including racism, in the minds of the original/indigenous people of these towns, there is no sense of ownership in Kohima and Dimapur of a large section of population therefore these two towns haven’t been able to build up on their social capital. Any town belongs to the people that live in it but the social capital of that town diminishes when considerations of caste, class, community, race, religion, etc., even politics, are allowed to dominate over issues of clean and healthy community environment. Yes, definitely our state Government needs to burn the midnight oil to find ways to clean up the mess our towns are but simultaneously our people also need to soul search our attitudes and mindsets and decide once and for all how long we want to live with one leg in the past and the other in the present ~ indeed the future ~ every which way. India is not lacking in laws related to urban living therefore it is past time for our state Government to implement and enforce them without malice and prejudice. It is also high time our judiciary become proactive on issue of environmental laws related to urban and rural areas ~ and haul up the state Government, as and when required. Now consider the fact of our state Government’s claims of Nagaland’s tourism “potentials” juxtaposed with the state being declared the third dirtiest in the country. This disgraceful distinction not only exposes our extremely low cleanliness quotient but also underscores the whole lot of explanations our state Government, not least our bureaucracy, and generally our political, economic and social elite need to give ~ not forgetting the whole lot of work that need to be done by these very same worthies. And so, now we must ask: after the Swatch Bharat Abhiyan was initiated and the Brand Ambassadors were selected and announced in Nagaland, what was our state Government doing?