Nine months before Swachch Bharat campaign was launched in India, members of a small Facebook page met for the first time in Bhopal and decided to do something more for the city. Something more than just posting photos and making comments about what was wrong in their city.
When six of them came together to clean a locality for the first time in Bhopal’s Bairagarh area in January 2014, some people reacted in the typical Bhopali andaaz, “Aarre miya, yeh to faecebookiya hai...kuch der baad bukhaar utar jayega (They are Facebook people, their fever will subside after some time).
But nearly two years down the line, this Facebook page ‘Bhopal I-clean’ has proved countless detractors wrong and a made a difference.
Starting from 6 volunteers, group today has 200 active members
Starting with six volunteers, it has now a core group of about 200 active members, and their FB page has over 6,000 likes. Till now they have cleaned and beautified over 80 localities in the city. Inspired by their success, similar FB pages have come up in Nagpur and Hyderabad.
Every Sunday the volunteers choose a public space, a locality or some heritage structure and start cleaning it, removing garbage, removing posters and graffiti, cutting weeds and so on from 7 am to 12 noon. And they are not content with just cleaning the city, they want to beautify it and make people aware that cleanliness and beauty go together.
They also colour the walls in the locality and draw simple paintings, mostly inspired by the tribal art of the state.
“The name of our FB group’s Bhopal I-Clean says it all. These days we see lot of posts and pictures in the social media about what is not right. People keep hammering that Bhopal is losing its sheen and it is becoming dirtier. But our group decided to break the barrier and meet in the real world to take the initiative ourselves. We decided we won’t wait for the government or other people to act or keep blaming others,” says one of the founder of the group, Kalpana Kekre, who runs a catering business.
Other founding members of the group include Gulrez Raza Khan (who started the FB page and now works in Kuwait), Suruchi Verma (teacher), Saurabh Amrit (private employee), Ameya Kekre (software professional) and Tarun Saxena (student).
For beautifying the localities, the volunteers spend from their own pockets
“Each volunteer gives Rs 50 every month which covers the cost of paints, brushes and other stuff. We don’t take money from any agency. If somebody wants to help us they can either provide the materials and the tools we use during cleaning and beautifying or give their time and work with us,” said another founding member Suruchi Verma.
On how they select a locality, Suruchi says that generally volunteers while commuting in the city find some places or roadsides that need attention and post the pictures of that area on the FB page.
“Then depending on the availability of the volunteers, we go there on Sunday, clean the area, remove the garbage and then beautify the walls, most of which are generally in a bad shape, with posters and graffiti,” says Suruchi, adding that their volunteers comprise primarily college and school students, young professionals, housewives and some retired people.
The Bhopal Municipal Corporation is happy with the group’s work and provides them water supply for cleaning and vehicles for transporting the garbage.
From the virtual to the real world
Founded: January 2014
Facebook page: Bhopal I-Clean
Page likes: More than 6,000
Core group: Nearly 200 volunteers
Projects completed: 89 (one project every Sunday)
Founding members: Gulrez Raza Khan, Kalpana Kekre, Suruchi Verma, Saurabh Amrit, Ameya Kekre and Tarun Saxena