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Elections invariably bring to the fore a kind of pollution that is hardly ever discussed or debated. Visual pollution, while unclean air or impure water or even a noisy atmosphere has had the privilege of being tackled often unsuccessfully by the law, that which is offensive tot eh eye seems to have escaped the attention of the masses and those represent them in the houses of power. Of course, there has been stray instances of an obscene poster being pulled down or a wall writing erased. But such steps have been vague and erratic, rather that walls are not be defaced had, it seems, not really been obeyed. A report from Calcutta says that this practice continues. What is missing this time is the creativity in the limericks and satires that one usually saw on the walls. Political parties say that graffiti are as Such part of the city as bandhs “Addas” street corner tete-a-tere where the subjects range from the most profound to the most frivolous. Besides, such writing gives local boys a sense of identity, if not participation. But to the eye nothing can be more unaesthetic than a wall that serves as a free medium for a poll campaign. A few years ago, it was in Calcutta that measures were taken, and rather effectively at that, to keep advertisers off such freebies. Time was ten hundreds of bills plastered all over the city made a mockery of cleanliness even as they offended the eye. Visual pollution may not harm one’s physique in the strict sense of the term. Certainly, noise above a certain decibel or unsafe water or filthy air is positively harmful. But a continuous battering of the sight by terrible images will probably tell on one’s mental well-being. A classic case of this is the display of larger than life cut outs, especially in Chennai, of politicians and film stars. Often, there is nothing appealing about them. On the contrary, they can be downright vulgar and crude to the point of being insulting to human sensibility. However, to confine visual pollution to scribbling on the wall or garish posters will be rather naïve. For there are many more reasons why our surroundings, our streets, our towns and our cities do not look pretty. Even in Chennai, that once boasted of the unique bell cart system, garbage is not cleared as frequently as it ought to be, and is allowed to accumulate and rot freely on the roads. Can there be a greater eyesore than this? Maybe, Pavements are left looking like ugly festering sores. In France, for example if a dog were to dirty a sidewalk, the responsibility lies with its owner to have it cleaned. Encroachments are yet another factor. Most of them are horrendous. A piece of wall another factor. Most of them are horrendous. A piece of wall jutting out into a thoroughfare or a thatched dwelling blocking a foothpath can mar the beauty of an area. The less said about slums the better, and with migration into urban centres a pressing reality now, the homeless and the destitute could not really care about aesthetics. Yet, to throw in one’s hand and say that everything is beyond hope will defeat the very spirit of life. Surat, scarred by the plague and humiliated by the rest of world, refused to sink into gloom and despair. It showed just about everyone that hygiene and cleanliness nee to be some kind of utopia. In Chennnai, one say young boys and girls. Who called themselves “Friends of the Beach”-trying to tidy up the sandy stretch. There are other who never say die, and are convinced that a sweet swan will emerge out of the ugly duckling.
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