Rajpur Punarjivan Abhiyan members cleaning a ground in Rajpur
It is not often that ordinary citizens shake themselves out of their normal daily routine and think about the society around them and it is even rarer for people to decide to take charge in their own hands. But when they do, the results are dramatic. This is the story of “Rajpur Punarjivan Abhyan”, a movement born by the desire to live in a clean neighbourhood, which grew and transformed an entire community.
“For 7 years I’ve watched helplessly as Rajpur started turning into a heap of garbage. What was once a beautiful neighbourhood started having piles of stinking litter all over.” remembers Swati Chanchani, a long time resident of Rajpur. “Then I realized that it is of no use waiting for the government to clean up our locality. We must do it ourselves and this is how Rajpur Punarjivan Abhyan was born.”
“I shared my thoughts with Rishi Pal, a local carpenter, who immediately latched on to the idea” says Swati. And then there was no turning back. The two went door to door requesting people not to dump their garbage into the beautiful khalas or on the roadside but to give it to them. The commonest question they faced was “What is Madam going to do with garbage?” The concept of someone collecting garbage was alien to most people.
Villagers lend a helping hand
Soon friends and neighbours pitched in. “Neera Sharma, Kumud Taimini & Richa Ghansiyal, these three friends of mine soon became an integral part of the movement.” says Swati. The entire Rajpur area was divided into 13 areas and door to door contact and road side meetings were organized.
“We would try and locate one person in each locality who we thought could help us and then with him or her we would go and meet all the residents in the area” remembers Neera. The commonest reason why people dumped their garbage into mountain side or road was simply because there was no alternative. “With only one Municipality bin in the whole of Rajpur, the people really had no choice.” says Rishi Pal. “We tried to provide them an alternative”.
The hardest part was convincing the shopkeepers to keep a cardboard bin outside their shop. “But we did manage to convince them and now all shops in Rajpur have a bin outside them, something which is not found anywhere else in the City” says Swati, with a sense of achievement.
4 employees were hired, a cycle rickshaw was taken on loan from Pramukh, another NGO active in the city in garbage disposal and the movement got going, 3 months ago. Initially the coverage was only 20%, but now gradually it is over 80%. Garbage is collected from each house daily and put in the Municipal Bin. “We charge people according to their paying capacity. We take Rs 200/- per month for bungalows to Rs 20/- for poorer people. There are a few houses we even take it for free, as long as they don’t dump it in the khala” informs Swati.
“We need at least two people with the rickshaw, because the lanes are narrow and it has to be left on the road and the moment monkeys found it unguarded, they would wreck havoc and throw the garbage all around” says Kumud with a smile. “We not only have to collect it, but literally guard it also” she adds.
The first area in Rajpur to be 100% compliant is Chandralok Basti. All houses give garbage to the volunteers and were rewarded for it. “We had promised that we would clean up the entire area if all the houses joined us and Chandralok Basti was the first to do so.” says Richa Ghansiyal. “So, we organized a cleaning campaign on the first Sunday of this month and cleaned up the open ground and its khala, with the help of volunteers, local villagers & the municipal staff. Each area which becomes 100% compliant will be similarly rewarded” she explained. “This serves as an incentive for other areas to join us” added Richa.
“Everyone agrees that Rajpur today is much cleaner than what it was a few months ago. But we still have a long way to go” says Swati. “My ultimate aim is to bind people together for an environmental cause and give Rajpur a new life” she concludes.
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