by Chander Mahadev
Karauli, Rajasthan, India:
Many call it a communal cauldron, a tinderbox where the two major communities could not see eye to eye on anything, leave alone ushering in the winds of cleanliness and change. In addition to that, the area was recently in the headlines for days on end for incidents of communal strife.
As woman change agent and protagonist Sushila would say: “Karauli is one city in Rajasthan where I believe every person across the divide possesses a streak of negativity. While the reasons are hard to fathom, they don’t believe in doing anything good nor do they cooperate when it comes to doing good work. Every person, child, and even the soil here reeks of negativity,” says she. The 52-year-old trigger team volunteer says this wistfully as she describes the problems, she faced in bringing about change among the residents. Today, her pioneering work has changed the face of this city even as she has emerged as an icon of woman power. She assiduously inspired and motivated the hapless residents to take to the path of cleanliness and become a part of the solid waste management initiative.
But this was not so when work began in July 2021. Not willing to be bogged down by the negative energy pervading the area, the FINISH Society team began work on the Integrated Solid Waste Management project.
When work was started by the team, the first few wards were surveyed. A courtesy meeting was held with the people of the locality. It was understood in the meeting that the city council in Karauli had garbage vehicles available, but in some wards the vehicles had not come for the last 2 years and some places for the last 7-8 months. When asked, “where do you dispose of the garbage,” the response was: “All the garbage is dumped in the nearby vacant plots, open spaces, or on the roads while people are on their way to somewhere.
The FINISH team apprised the officials about the basic premise of waste management which they said was Collection-Transportation & Proper disposal. First of all, there was a need for scientific collection of garbage which formed the bedrock of an effective solid waste management system.
The first task was to bring such people on our side who could get the work done at once. And the main link in all this was Sanitary Inspector Pintu Meena. After meeting with all of them, a time was fixed at which the ward councillors of 15 wards would meet together at one place, discuss, get trained, understand the work and find a way out. The training imparted to them boosted people’s confidence. After that, the exposure visit to Udaipur increased the confidence of the people towards the organization and towards themselves. And now they were ready to do something for the community.
Motivating both communities
Motivating the Muslim community took place a day before Juma prayers, after offering Namaz in the Masjid. All of them were requested by the team to meet at the Masjid. Then on the second day Hafiz ji along with the chairman announced on the microphone at the time of Friday prayers from the mosque and linked the cleanliness of his surroundings with the Holy Quran. From that day on, change was perceptible. The challenge for change was given by the District Collector himself to the project manager of the organization. The challenge was to test the work of the organization and the management to meet the stipulated deadline. And this work was done three days before the deadline expired.
1. 904 households were involved in the waste management exercise
2. Wet waste collected per month was approximately 10T (figures for 4 wards)
3. Dry waste collected per month amounted to approximately 8T to 10T.
4. 71 households began home composting and motivating other households to join in.
5. Motorized vehicle and 3 pushcarts were pressed into service.
As for motivating both the communities, all the ward councillors, chairman ,deputy chairman, and Sanitary Inspector took up the responsibility together, by invoking a catchy slogan. The team started connecting with the community and started bringing about change. This journey of “Sankalp to Siddhi” was led by an empowered woman Sushila as mentioned earlier, all of 52 years of age. She worked as a Librarian at the local Meena Memorial Inter College from 1995-2021.
Game changer motivator
Protagonist Sushila had her task cut out. After being triggered by another member of the team, every morning she would go to every street and walk to each house and explain the need for cleanliness. At 5 p.m. every evening, all the members of the same street would assemble and discuss the benefits of waste management. A short video film would be shown to them and she would then administer them an oath based on what they held dear in life. . It was through her that the chain of change was set in motion. Today, the situation is such that 71 families have begun home composting and waste is being disposed of using push carts. As they say, change is possible even if one community member is willing to assume charge.
Author Chander Mahadev is senior journalist and academician