Ongole was the third-most backwards town in united Andhra Pradesh even after 46 years of its formation. Bhoomi Foundation was the first organisation to work on the Clean Ongole campaign, and they have since inspired several other organisations to join hands. Ongole has now set an example of cleanliness to the neighbouring cities and was announced as a poster-free city by the government of Andhra Pradesh.
Tejaswi Podapati is working as a software engineer in Hyderabad. She grew up in a middle-class family discussing and debating national issues with her father. These conversations inspired her to serve the nation in one way or the other. Every weekend, she travels 300 km to reach her hometown, Ongole, to work on the foundation’s goal: “Clean Ongole.”
When she was in her final year of engineering, the work done by The Ugly Indian in cleaning up Bengaluru inspired her to start one such campaign in her city Ongole, Andhra Pradesh. With the support of her family and friends, she launched Bhoomi Foundation in 2015 – on 15th October (Abdul Kalam’s birthday) – with a strength of 10 volunteers.
While speaking to The Logical Indian, Tejaswi said: “If you want to see a change in your country, first you have to change yourself, your city next, then your state and this will, in turn, bring change throughout the country … Ongole is the third most undeveloped district in united Andhra Pradesh after Adilabad and Mahabubnagar even after 46 years since its formation. This is because no one cares and people think it is the responsibility of the government.”
Impact and Challenges
The journey of Bhoomi has seen several highs and lows. Initially, there was no support for the Bhoomi Foundation from the public and they woulkd see them as clowns cleaning the area. But slowly the perception towards Bhoomi Foundation began to change. Soon, Bhoomi Foundation got a lot of support from the public and many more volunteers started joining the cause.
“When Bhoomi first started spot-fixing, we were ignored by the locals. Slowly, people started joining us in our efforts and now proactively participate in cleaning and take responsibility in maintaining the spot fixes. Our final goal is that people should feel responsible for their surroundings. Unless that happens whatever we do is in vain. Because development is not in one person’s hand but is a combined effort,” says Tejaswi.
Posters used to reappear and garbage dumped back after a few months at some places despite the spot fix. Tejaswi, being an optimistic individual, used to feel only 10% are being spoiled the remaining 90% are cleaner than before. Now when posters are stuck or if the garbage is again dumped at some places after cleaning.People near to the spot are taking the necessary steps to prevent that.
“People should feel responsible; unless people feel responsible, whatever we do is in vain. Because development is not in one’s hand – it is a combined effort,” said Tejaswi
Bhoomi Foundation, along with citizens, started involving government officials in their mission to make Ongole a clean city. In collaboration with the municipality, the organisation cleaned and beautified a park located in the centre of the town. The park was very filthy, people could not walk through that park, and it used to look like a dump yard. People near that park used to get diseases like dengue and malaria. Now, the park is cleaned and people are safe.
Municipal commissioners of surrounding towns have invited Bhoomi Foundation to initiate projects in their towns. The team has currently expanded its operations to Addanki, a neighbouring town, and would like to work in other cities – including Hyderabad. They also educate school children about cleanliness.
Recognition for the work done
Bhoomi Foundation is the first organisation to work on the Clean Ongole campaign.
- Ongole city was announced as a poster-free city by the government of Andhra Pradesh;
- Swatchaa Andhra award from Hon’ble Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu;
- Received best social service certificate in 3 months of inauguration at the district level.
With #MySocialResponsibility, we aim to bring you more inspiring stories of individuals and organisations across the globe. If you also know about any changemakers, share their story at [email protected] and we'll spread the word.