Manipulating and Monetizing the Indian wastage culture dichotomy
Indians have a wastage culture. That is until a price is put on the commodity. This can be leveraged by the govt. to help stop wastage of food, water, and even vaccines.
A neighbour switches on their water pump every night at 9pm. Lets it run while going to sleep as a family. None of them bother to switch it off. Our ground water goes waste for hours together. And it frustrates me to no end. Just the sound of water splashing outside is enough to get my blood boiling.
Despite telling them about it many times, it continues to happen. When I was talking about this to a friend, he told me he has one such neighbor too wasting ground water. So looks like it is a wider cultural problem in the society. No wonder 23℅ of India’s ground water has depleted in just the last decade.
But these same neighbours are very calculative for using their gas, automobiles, and the canned water they buy for drinking. Not a drop is ever wasted.
Food wastage is an alarming issue in India. Over 40% of food produced in India is wasted, it is alleged. Much of it is not wasted in restaurants and homes as you would imagine. But in transit, storage, and distribution from The Food Corporation of India.
According to the agriculture ministry, we waste INR 50,000 crores worth of food produced every year in the country. Insects eat about 21 million tons of wheat, owing to inadequate storage and poor management at the government-run Food Corporation of India (FCI).
But if we look at individual habits and culture in India, food wastage is frowned upon. At homes, we use the last scraps of vegetables and fruits. Parents reprimand us since childhood for wasting food. And though recently the “buffet culture” has increased food waste, it is not like what you may see in China or the USA.
South Korean hospitals have extracted more vaccine from vials. Yet, in India, which is spending billions on Covid-19 vaccination, they are being wasted. States are wasting anywhere between 5–20% of Covid vaccines. The PM has now spoken up about the need to cut such wastage.
Yet private hospitals, buying vaccines, are trying to extract as much vaccine as possible. There are rumors of those not eligible getting vaccinated at private hospitals. They are trying to maximize the use of every vial and their capacity to vaccinate. This may not be bad, considering the Covid case numbers are increasing.
What we see from these real instances of wastage of a commodity is, Indians do not care about wastage unless there’s a personal cost. Given this dichotomy in attitude towards wastage, I believe the govt. needs to impose this personal cost wherever there’s wastage.
If vaccination centers are wasting vials, then govt. needs to collect the vials back and charge them for the vaccine leftover. If the FCI is wasting food in transport and storage, then officials can be incentivized for every tonne of food they can save. And govt. can fine the FCI proportionate to the food wastage too — with implications for officials.
As for residents wasting precious ground water, the govt. needs to mandate the use of timer switch-off for pumps, and meter their ground water use. Charge any use more than a free quota per household. Govt. must do this immediately to save India’s precious ground water.
Even if the wastage culture doesn’t change in all the above instances, at least the govt. can fill the treasury.