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.’