Bilal Dar, an 18-year-old rag picker who earned his living by picking up waste from the Wular Lake in Bandipora district of north Kashmir, was appointed the brand ambassador of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) on 15 July.
Speaking to the Hindustan Times, Dr Shafqat Khan, SMC commissioner, said, “He will be our brand ambassador. He is an inspiration for everybody. He has been earning his livelihood by cleaning the Wular Lake and removing garbage, used bottles and shoes among other things for many years now.”
As a brand ambassador of the SMC, Bilal will be given a unique uniform and a vehicle to go and meet people in commercial and residential areas. He is excited about his new role and has promised to work hard to make people aware of proper garbage disposal mechanism.
Bilal, who is a resident of Laharwarpora of Bandipora district, has been doing this job for around five years now. He picks up trash from the lake and sells them for a meagre sum of Rs 150-200 per day. It is with this money that he supports his mother, Mughali, and two sisters. Dar’s father, Mohammad Ramzan Dar, a ragpicker on the Wular himself, died of cancer in 2003.
Infamous for toxic debris, plastic, carcasses and much more, Wular Lake has been on the verge of dying, reducing from 273 km to just 72 km of water expanse. According to media estimates, Bilal collected over 12,000 kg trash annually.
After his father’s death, Bilal was burdened with the responsibility of looking after his family; he left his studies to fend for them. Who else would he have turned to other than the saviour, Wular lake? He had tried his hands at several attempts like that of working as a mechanic at an auto-repair shop, as a helping hand at a tea shop – but none lasted for more than a while.
Braving several odds, Bilal continued to do his work on the lake. Bilal recalled that he had received no help or cooperation from the general public.
Bilal features in a documentary ‘Saving The Savior – Story Of A Kid And Wular Lake.’ The documentary produced and directed by Jalal-u-Din Baba depicts the life of Bilal.
The Logical Indian community appreciates the work that Bilal has been carrying out on the Wular lake of Kashmir. Kashmir is known as the ‘paradise on Earth’ and Bilal is surely doing his part in keeping it that way. He is an inspiration to all and a real example of the proverb ‘Rome was not built in a day.’
Have you ever spotted a speeding car without a care for the traffic signal? Ever spotted a person rushing to the other side of the road when the traffic light is green? Ever seen bikers use pavements as roads to save a few minutes? Ever seen cars change lanes on highways or rush hour traffic on a whim? Well, so have thousands of other Indians.
Road safety in India is a serious concern. For a country that boasts the second largest road network in the world, it is inarguable that we need to pay more attention to our safety on roads – a place where we step out every day, spend a handsome amount of our time.
The government has come up with several regulations on road safety, but is this enough? Not if awareness around the topic is still lacking.
The intention behind the initiative is to bring together lawmakers, local authorities, traffic police and citizens under one umbrella.
The cities will be rated on parameters such as Pedestrian Rights, Road Lighting and Maintenance, Motor Laws and Traffic Control, Emergency Services, Road Cleanliness, Connectivity, Road Transport Infrastructure, Heavy Vehicle Traffic Management, Road Safety, Differently abled friendly, Road Quality and Road Safety For Children.
Here are the ten cities that were chosen for Road Safety Index 2018 and the reasons that make their roads safe or unsafe:
Mumbai has facilities for the differently-abled like reservations in public transports, special train compartments, concessions on fares, etc. The city that never sleeps scored the best when it comes to citizens’ participation in making the city accepting and warm toward the differently-abled. It won the category ‘Differently-Abled Friendly’.
However, there are areas of improvement – illegal hawkers, pavements and footpaths need to be fixed or reconstructed.
Anyone who hails from the capital of West Bengal knows about its recreational parks and brightly lit streets. Its traffic police deserve special mention for redirecting rush traffic every day as Kolkata roads are narrow and many are one-way streets.
During Durga Puja, the city tries to make Pandals differently-abled friendly by installing ramps.
It won the categories – ‘Road Lighting & Maintenance’ and ‘Road Safety For Children’.
But the City of Joy needs to work more on giving its residents #HappyRoads. Issues of waterlogging and numerous street hawkers, roadside vendors in busy areas need to be solved.
There’s no one who’s been to Delhi and not praised its excellent connectivity. Delhi prides itself for broad roads, top-notch metros, pavements and foot over bridges. The national capital surely serves as an example for cities across India when it comes to road connectivity hence, it won the categories ‘Connectivity’ and ‘Road Quality’ in the Road Safety Index.
While Delhi has made many of its public places differently-abled friendly, the areas that need improvement are long hours in traffic, fixing of roads that pose a hindrance to daily commute and rash driving by bikers.
The city boasts well-marked zebra crossings, adequate footpaths for pedestrians, underground SMART dustbins, reduced encroachments. Raipur fares well in almost all parameters of road safety. It won the category of ‘Road Safety’ and ‘Pedestrian Rights’.
However, the city could do better with stricter fines for traffic violators and awareness about road safety and garbage disposal.
Other cities can take inspiration from Chennai on how to ensure good road safety. The city has wide, well-connected roads that are lit properly. It also boasts rigorous night patrolling where traffic rules violators are fined. One of the best initiatives taken by Chennai is the separate parking space on city roads that prevent traffic from accumulating. It came out on top in the category ‘Motor Laws & Traffic Control’.
Areas where Chennai needs to improve are street lighting and cleanliness.
Indore is one of the few cities that has used plastic waste for construction of roads and covered garbage disposals, which explains why the city won the ‘Road Cleanliness’ category. Indore also has adequate zebra crossings, visual signals, street lights, footpaths.
But areas where the city needs improvement are – strict action against traffic violators, public spaces more differently-abled friendly.
There is a lot to learn from the road safety measures implemented by Ahmedabad – sound medical facilities, separate lanes for local buses, special cab service for differently-abled, wide roads. Ahmedabad won in the category ‘Emergency Services’, ‘Road Transport Infrastructure’ and ‘Heavy Vehicle Traffic Management’.
If the Heritage City improves road safety awareness among citizens, it’s bound to fare even better. Better street lighting and lesser encroachments will work in favour of Ahmedabad.
The other cities shortlisted were Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad but they didn’t win any category.
Maruti Suzuki’s initiative to rank cities will encourage citizens and administration to do better and emerge on top.
The Logical Indian community wholeheartedly appreciates the various initiatives undertaken by Maruti-Suzuki in this direction. Not only the government but we, as citizens of this country, should also pledge to make our roads safe. One of the first steps towards this is that we understand our duties.
We hope the authorities take a note while we pledge to do our own bit towards happier, safer Indian roads.
For more information about the Maruti Suzuki’s initiative and the Road Safety Indexclick here.