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Wielding the broom: Meet the crusaders of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

India is full of people who are making a difference. They are the ones who did not keep mum about the filth around them and decided to set an example by being the change.

india Updated: Oct 02, 2015 10:58 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times
Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,PM Modi,Crusaders
File photo of VJTI College students participating in a nationwide cleanliness campaign Swachh Bharat Mission on the occasion of Gandhi Jyanti at Dadar Beach in Mumbai. (Kunal Patil/ HT Photo)

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, completes one year on Friday and aims to make a “clean and hygienic India”. While the movement has gained momentum, inadequate funds, lack of capacity of municipalities and district panchayats, tepid awareness campaigns and unenthusiastic private sector response may have derailed the flagship scheme.

Yet, the country is full of people who are making a difference. They are the ones who did not keep mum about the filth around them and decided to set an example by being the change. From a UK citizen cleaning up Dehradun to a Nagaland girl bringing a fresh lease of life to the dirty ghats of Varanasi, PM Modi’s constituency, these are some valiant efforts that bring a ray of hope to others who want to do something for their nation too.

Sunil Chaudhary (32)


When he sat on a dharna for over five months last year, demanding the construction of toilets, especially for women in the congested Chowk locality in the old quarters of the city, many thought him to be insane. But Chaudhary’s fight for better sanitation has yielded results and an NGO has sanctioned Rs 25 lakhs for three toilets. His achievement may be modest so far, but his commitment to the cause has been huge. “Even my wife deserted me and has still not returned,” says Chaudhary. He even went to jail for “disturbing peace”

Jodie Underhill (39)

Jodie Underhill is from distant United Kingdom, but she has dedicated herself to the cause of keeping mountains clean. The 39-year-old activist first came to India in 2008 and was appalled by the country’s garbage problem. “It completely broke my heart,” she says.

In India on a work visa, she co-founded Waste Warriors, an organisation that works for sustainable waste management in Dehradun and the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand. Jodie is often spotted collecting garbage when she is not involved in training programmes on waste management.

Kumud Baruah (65)

He faced sarcasm for sweeping roads. But Kumud Baruah, 65, has continued to do what he believes in -- ensuring a clean and green environment.

An advocate by profession, Baruah has been cleaning roads at Bamgaon in north-eastern Assam’s Sonitpur district since 2013. He has also spent Rs 3 lakhs for planting more than 600 saplings along the roads in the area. “I sweep in the morning, before going to court. My father’s ideals made me take up this work, but Swachh Bharat has made people more appreciative of my work,” he says.

Temsutula Imsong (30)

Hailing from Nagaland, Temsutula Imsong found her life’s calling on the ghats of Varanasi. Having moved to Delhi in 2005, she immersed herself in cleaning up the ghats after she quit a job she did not like.

Currently she is involved in removing silt deposited at the ghats and is often seen along with a team of volunteers doing their bit for cleaning up the Ganga river. The Prabhu Ghat and Babu Pandey Ghat are among those that have been cleaned up. For her and the team, there is more work to be done though.

Chandra Swamy (64)

Chandra Swamy, 64, is the CEO of a firm that manufactures tooth brushes. But he is better known for wielding the broom and cleaning up the localities of Tiruvanmiyur and Beasant Nagar every Sunday and the first Wednesday of every month.

Leading a team of 50 employees, Swamy has taken up the cleanliness drive as his company’s corporate social responsibility activity. Swamy and his team are familiar figures in the two localities, clearing litter and distributing aprons, brooms and shovels to others who join the drive.

Debjani Majumdar (63)

Once overflowing with filth, Turf Road in south Kolkata’s Bhawanipore has come a long way. At least a stretch of it is spic-and-span and the credit for its makeover largely goes to Debjani Majumdar, 63.

Fed up of the stench, she took matters into her own hands last year and put up posters calling on locals and passers-by not to dump garbage or urinate at public places.

Others soon joined in and donations poured in for the cleanliness drive. Students from a college helped in cleaning the streets and painting murals on the walls. Majumdar, however, gives the credit to the PM.

Also read: 1 year of Swachh Bharat: Cleanest and dirtiest cities in India

(With inputs from Kenneth John, Neha Pant, Rahul Karmakar, KV Lakshmana, Sudhir Kumar, Joydeep Thakur)

First Published: Oct 02, 2015 10:56 IST