Change begins with you: Citizens strive to make a change in Mumbai

  • Swati Goel Sharma, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 18, 2014 22:27 IST

This is your city and change begins with you: No one understands this motto better than some residents and housing societies who have addressed the issues that plague their wards head on.

Anil Joseph, the chairman of Perry Road Residents Association, which began functioning in 1999, initiated a residents’ movement in the area against illegal political posters that remained an eyesore for most of the year. “I simply pulled the posters down every time political workers put them up. A few instances of tussles later, the workers did not return with the posters,” said Joseph.

This success encouraged him and the housing complex that has 45 buildings, to address other issues such as of waste segregation. “We had a special truck coming in once a week to pick up dry waste, which was used by a non-profit organisation to recycle. But there were times when the truck failed to arrive, and the waste would just pile up in our society. We then formed a team of 20-odd sweepers and educated them about dry and wet waste. Eventually, the sweepers began to collect dry waste, segregating it properly. They then themselves sold it to scrap dealers, which supplemented their income. By giving them such incentives, we managed to tackle the problem,” he said.

Like Joseph, there are several enterprising citizens who have taken it upon themselves to fix the problems. The renovation of the Citizen’s Garden in Chembur is one such example that speaks of the unrelenting efforts of its residents. This open space in Pestom Sagar – a colony of over 100 buildings, housings around 2,500 families and also dotted with slum clusters – was prone to encroachments. The place had even become a haven for drug addicts who indulged in various illegal activities. “We took over the garden’s management,” said K Pratapan, current secretary of the Pestom Sagar Citizen’s Forum that was formed in 1990.

“We sensitised the slum dwellers about the use of open spaces and their importance. It was a slow process at that, but it paid off. The encroachments were removed. We fenced the garden and also made a well for water-harvesting. We took up solid waste management, and sensitised sweepers about waste segregation. In no time, we had a well-maintained garden for our use,” said Pratapan.

These exemplary efforts have encouraged other areas to follow suit. Colaba and Cuffe Parade is one such example.

Prompted into action by the prime minister’s call for a Swachh Bharat, two civil society groups – My Dream Colaba and Colaba Advanced Locality Management (CALM) – picked up brooms on November 15, kick-starting a long and sustained campaign against illegal dumping and littering in an entire (municipal) constituency.

“During the first drive, we also mobilised school students of the Colaba Municipal School. Around 10 of our volunteers meet every Saturday and take up the drive on a particular street. We not only clean it up, but sensitise and educate the commercial establishments as well as passersby to not throw garbage on the roads,” said Cynthia D’Mello of My Dream Colaba. Among the spots cleaned so far are Kittridge Road, Windy Hall Lane and Sassoon Dock side.

Activist Rajkumar Sharma said it is very important that residents actively participate. “We often talk about our rights, but not so much about our duties. Considering the sheer size of the problem, residents must make efforts. To start with, we must consciously cut down on the waste generated,” he said.

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