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Ragpicker thanks PM Modi for taking note of his efforts during Mann ki Baat

The 18-year-old ragpicker from north Kashmir was appointed brand ambassador of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation in July.

india Updated: Sep 24, 2017 23:09 IST
Abhishek Saha
Abhishek Saha
Srinagar, Hindustan Times
Ragpicker,PM Modi,Mann ki Baat
Reports have said Bilal Dar collected over 12,000 kg trash annually for almost five years.(File)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday congratulated the efforts of Bilal Dar – an 18-year-old ragpicker who earned his living by picking up waste from the Wular Lake in Bandipora district of north Kashmir and was appointed brand ambassador of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) in July.

“I am very happy. I want to thank Modiji for taking note of my humble efforts. For all my life I want to continue working for cleanliness and make common people aware as to why cleanliness is so important,” Dar told Hindustan Times over phone on Sunday evening.

HT had reported on the life and work of the teenager in July, when he was appointed the SMC’s brand ambassador. For almost five years now, Dar, a resident of Laharwarpora of Bandipora district, has been removing plastic trash from the lake and selling it for around ₹150-200 per day, which helps him support his mother Mughali and two sisters.

Dar’s father Mohammad Ramzan Dar, a ragpicker on the Wular himself, died of cancer in 2003. Since then, Dar had made his livelihood a means to clean up the Wular -- one of Asia’s largest fresh water lakes. Media reports have estimated that Dar collected over 12,000 kg trash annually.

PM Modi said that often a film or sports celebrity becomes a brand ambassador but it was not the case for Dar. “Bilal Dar got connected to the ‘Swachhata Abhiyan’ or Cleanliness Campaign since the age of 12-13 years and has been working for the last 5 to 6 years,” Modi said.

The Prime Minister continued: “He clears plastic, polythene, used bottles, dry or wet waste – every piece of dirt from Aisa’s biggest lake near Srinagar. He also earns from this activity.”

The PM congratulated the SMC for taking this initiative towards sanitation and for their imagination to appoint an ambassador for this cause of cleanliness.

Dr Shafqat Khan, SMC commissioner, told HT that he was really thankful to the PM for mentioning and congratulating the SMC on appointing Dar.

“The boy’s commitment to the cause of cleanliness and his own vision to clean the Wular Lake is simply heroic. He is an inspiration,” Dr Khan said.

As a brand ambassador of the SMC, Dar is to be given a special uniform and a vehicle to go and meet people in commercial and residential areas and make them aware about cleanliness, hygiene and waste-disposal. Dr Khan said that Dar will soon start going around on.

Dar shot to the limelight when a documentary film on his life and work on the Wular titled Saving the Saviour by Jalal-ud-din Baba was awarded at the 6th National Science Film Festival in Mumbai last year.

First Published: Sep 24, 2017 23:09 IST