Ideas and Action for a Better India
Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman, Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Sanitation, Cleanliness and Community Health
As you enter Malad, Mumbai’s western suburb, you suddenly feel that there is something different. What is it?
The roads are clean. The pavements are clean. The shops present a litter-free front. Street corners greet you not with garbage heaps, but with nice potted plants. Some streets even sport mini-gardens.
“The spots where you now see plants and roadside mini-gardens are precisely the places where garbage dumps used to pile up,” Vinod Shelar, a young and dynamic BJP municipal corporator in Malad, tells me. “Often the garbage dumps would occupy half the road space.”
In a city where there is hardly any clean open space left to make it dirty, this is a remarkable achievement. I witnessed it when I visited Malad on Sunday, along with my two colleagues Dayanand Jadhav and Dilip Kadam from the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Sanitation, Cleanliness and Community Health.
And the credit for this achievement goes both to Shelar and to one outstanding CLEANLINESS SOLDIER – Subhash Rane.
Rane, a widely respected non-political (and no-nonsense) social activist, was earlier a soldier of the Shiv Sena. He got disillusioned with the Shiv Sena and decided to devote his life to the one cause he was always passionate about: Swachhata (cleanliness).
In Shelar, Rane found a politician who was equally passionate about making his ward in Malad clean.
With the help of local BJP karyakartas, Shelar and Rane launched a concerted drive a couple of years ago, firstly, to educate the people about their responsibility to keep their surroundings clean and, secondly, to team up with the local municipal administration to make garbage collection and disposal efficient.
“With the cooperation of the local municipal officials, we have introduced the system of door-to-door garbage collection, as a result of which we have completely eliminated garbage bins on roads at 32 spots,” Rane told me, his face beaming with the smile of a major accomplishment. “If people see a garbage bin on the road, they have a temptation to throw garbage in it. Soon the open bins spill over and make the entire road dirty. All this is a thing of the past now. My philosophy is: GARBAGE MUST NOT BE SEEN AT ANY PUBLIC PLACE.”
Shelar and Rane added: “Our next initiative will be to ensure maximum recycling of the garbage locally, so that our garbage is not transported to distant landfills in Mumbai. WE WANT TO MAKE MALAD A ZERO-GARBAGE SUBURB.”
Admirably, Shelar and Rane reached out to all the slums in Malad, including those that are predominantly Muslim-populated, and made them enthusiastic participants in the cleanliness drive.
Shri Pathare, an officer at the local Motor Loader Chowky of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which is in charge of transportation of garbage, was full of praise for Shelar and Rane. “I have tremendous work satisfaction now because our partnership has succeeded in making this area clean.”
At the end of our tour of Malad, Shri Shelar invited me to his office, introduced me to his party workers and asked me to address them. I said to them:
“Our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji has given a call to make India Clean before 2019, as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary. This Swachh Bharat mission can succeed only when tens of thousands of local initiatives in rural and urban India succeed. You deserve praise because you have achieved significant success even before the Prime Minister announced his Swachh Bharat mission.”