A Cleaner Colombo

Colombo has become cleaner. That is a fact. One has to accept it. But a long way to go too. This is not sufficient. We are better than Indian cities but there is no point in comparing with the worst and boasting. But this is a good start. We don’t see the empty yoghurt cups, milk packets, shopping bags, etc. anymore by the road side. They directly go to the dust collectors. This is a good move because this change was done without introducing punishment. Only convincing the people was enough. No wonder we have 90+% literacy rate and people can understand the message. The advert run on TV where a big worm follows a person who dumps dirt by the roadside was effective.

When we heard that the Defense Secretary was the man behind making Colombo clean we expected him to use force and take some drastic actions like on the spot punishments, well… etc. I am not sure whether people started collecting garbage and dump them in assigned places out of fear or just thinking it a national duty. Anyway, Colombo is becoming better. So are the suburbs.

Obviously, the villages in Sri Lanka were cleaner than cities whereas in India both are equally dirty. Towns in the outstations also are becoming better these days. I usually don’t even drop the bus ticket on the street but take it to the dustbin at the office or home and I don’t think I’m the only one who does so. There are more people who do care about the environment. They should be encouraged and rewarded.

Urban councils don’t have a sound plan to collect garbage. They should keep garbage bins in proper locations so that people could drop their garbage in to these bins. Nobody wants to make a street unclean.

Colombo is greener these days due to the plants and trees grown by the roadside. Vihara Maha Devi Park, canals, and the beaches are cleaner. Parliament area is like a park now.

The other main area the authorities should look at is the public toilets. There should be more public toilets and they should be kept clean. I don’t mind even private sector companies coming in and offering better service for a bigger fee. Even though some toilet signs are displayed in fuel stations only very few of them have toilets. This should be made compulsory for fuel stations and roadside hotels.


Sri Lanka Police take 146 years to issue copies of the complaints within minutes

I have been to police stations to get copies of the complaint I made regarding lost documents several times as I kept losing my valuable documents due to constant changes of residences. Getting a copy of the complaint is a long process. First, you have to wait in the queue to make a complaint. While you wait, you can hear a number of stories from domestic violence to distilling illegal alcohol to practicing incest by fathers on daughters. Since there is no room for take one complainant at a time in a closed room, the others also hear all these which is embarrassing to the complainants.

Then you are asked to request a copy of the complaint you made from the Officer in Charge of the police station. Only at this time you come to know that the police have no blank paper to provide for you and you have to buy them yourself. You will be extremely lucky if there is a stationary shop nearby, if not you have to go back to the closest town to buy the blank paper. What I do is I take 50-blank paper packet with me and hand it over to the policeman and ask him to distribute them among the disabled and older people who come without a blank paper. I use one paper and 49 papers are for charity.

Next you have to write down the request to the OIC as dictated by the police officer. Then you give it to the officer with 25 LKR and when you provide a 100 or 50 rupee note, the officer might say he doesn’t have change. You might have to go to the police canteen to get it changed. Even if I ask the officer to keep the change he won’t accept. Once you come back with the change that the relevant officer has gone for lunch, etc. Again you have to wait.

Once the officer comes back after a good one hour or two, you have to give him 25 LKR in change and then he gives you a yellow color receipt and you are advised not to lose this at any cost. Then you are asked to come back after a few days with the receipt to collect the copy of the complaint. This is because they do not have anybody to typeset the copy of the complaint and till they find an officer for this, you need to give them time.

When you go to the police station to collect the copy of the complaint you will be asked to get the already typed copy of the complaint signed by the OIC. You will be lucky if you find him in his seat and even if he is there, he will be on the phone having an endless chat or busy talking to someone in front of him.

With the curiosity of why it takes this much of a delay at a police station, I asked an experienced police officer (a friend of mine) the reasons for it and why not the police reduce the delay. His answer was, “You are delayed and hassled at a police station to discourage you to come to a police station. If the police station is a luxurious place you will be inclined to visit it and will not care about the minor things of losing an identity card or a driving license and will come to the police to collect it easily. But now you know what it takes to go through the mill at a police station, you won’t lose any of the valuable documents anymore.” he said.

Coming back to the story, once you get the signature and the rubber stamp of the OIC, you are issued with a copy of the complaint. It takes several days and you feel pissed off.

But, to my surprise, when I went to the Kahathuduwa Police Station to make a complaint and get a copy of the complaint as I had lost my university record book (I am doing an external degree) the police took only few minutes to deliver it. I was surprised how fast they did it this time. The reason was that the officer had a book with carbon copy papers and once you write a complaint in the original paper, it automatically copies it in another paper! My question is why did the Sri Lanka Police take 146 years to do that? (See Police history at http://www.police.lk/index.php/police-history)