I Litter, therefore I am

Sai Ramachandran
9 min readDec 19, 2022

India has a littering problem. That’s no secret. Is the situation salvageable? A couple of policy proposals that could make an impact.


Before his descent into MAGA madness, Mayor Rudy Giuliani led New York City, most famously, perhaps, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers.

Rudy Giuliani (as imagined by Stable Diffusion)

Even before he gained fame as America’s Mayor after the attacks, he was credited with taming New York’s streets through “Broken Windows” policing.

“Broken Windows” policing holds that visible signs of civil breakdown — like people panhandling or flagrantly flouting traffic rules — lead to worse criminality and disorder in the long run.

Giuliani told the NYPD to target low level, petty crimes like jaywalking and loitering which supposedly led to an across the board reduction in crime.

Of course, the effectiveness of Broken Windows has famously been challenged by contrarian economists in their book Freakonomics which said that crime rates fell all across America during the 1990s, even in cities where Broken Windows policing was not in use. They, in turn, credit unleaded gasoline with declining crime rates across the globe.

I bring this up to discuss the possibility of using Broken Windows to combat India’s never ending fight with public littering, public spitting, and public defecation.

Littering in the Indian Context

Indian cities are choking on litter.

Everything is fair game for littering. You don’t have to look very far. Walk down the street outside your home in either direction, you will likely find a garbage patch at the corner.

No empty lot between buildings, no storm drain, or canal, or even playground for children is spared the scourge of littering.

What’s worse is we are actively poisoning ourselves with our happy go littering.

Cows eating plastic (as per Stable Diffusion)

Take, for example, this 2014 report by IndiaToday which says that our livestock is likely producing toxic milk because the plastic they ingest while…

Sai Ramachandran

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