Virendra Singh Negi, a farmer in Devli Bagad village of Chamoli District never knew the adverse effects of garbage cluttered on the paths of his village until he joined the ‘Mera Gaon Swachh Gaon’ campaign which is now transforming the villages of Garhwal.
On Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday, in 2014, PM Narendra Modi, six months after taking over the chair, launched ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’ to make India a garbage-free nation. However, little has changed since then as citizens still need to become aware of the repercussions of filth and garbage toiling everywhere in the country.
Bhuwan Rawat, a 32-year-old engineer who migrated to Delhi for employment, has been lately thinking of returning to the hills and making a difference there. In 2017, he initiated a movement called ‘Mera Gaon Swachh Gaon’. He carried this movement with a message that says, “We should not be dependent on the government for even cleaning. What government does, it does; we need to set our priorities and duties towards our nation straight.”
Bhuwan works in Pauri as a deputy manager. He hails from Devli Bagad village of Chamoli district.
How Did It Start?
“In June 2017, I was sitting at the Dhari Devi Temple in Srinagar area of Pauri District and observed that devotees were littering the area. It is of profound anguish to see one of the centres of our faith cluttered with filth. What about other areas? I asked myself.” Bhuwan tells The Logical Indian.
The other day, while going to his office, Bhuwan saw scrapped oil canisters dumped outside a shop, and asked for the price to buy them. The shop agreed to sell them at very cheap rates. Bhuwan took them home.
Rawat recycled those canisters to dustbins by colouring them green and red. He placed those dustbins around the temple area. On the first day, devotees did not respond. However, a few of them cared and threw trash in the dustbins. This left Bhuwan with positive vibes and he returned home with immense satisfaction. This was just the beginning. In some days, the Dhari Devi Temple area transformed into one of the cleanest areas in Pauri. Soon, the devotees remarkably responded to his efforts. People also told him that if there are no garbage bins in the area, commuters or devotees would throw away trash anywhere.
How Villagers Joined ‘Mera Gaon Swachh Gaon’
After the success at the Dhari Devi Temple, engineer-turned-social activist Bhuwan Rawat had found his mission in life. He decided to start cleaning the villages. The importance of cleanliness was also explained to people in the surrounding 20-25 villages.
On August 15, 2017, failing to make an impact among villagers, he picked up a broom and began sweeping the trash cluttered on the streets of Kandara to spread awareness against the dangers of garbage. He says, “It was shocking to see that people who come to villages in the hills from other areas tend to spread filth in these rural areas much more than natives do.”
Bhuwan also apprised the benefits of cleanliness to the villagers and how anyone can do this without spending the money.
He says, “I was not worried about whether the villagers will come together or not, rather I was confident that after watching me, they will surely join the battle against the muck.”
Getting support from the locals, Bhuwan formally launched a movement ‘Mera Gaon Swachh Gaon’ to make Uttarakhand, Swachh. In December 2017, he was invited to his native village Devali Bagad in Chamoli to discuss this initiative and inspire.
With the start of the year 2018, the campaign already made a lasting impact in the heart of Kandara, Pauri. Following the footsteps, Devali Bagad in Chamoli, Khalu Village in Pauri, and Tolma, a village in Chamoli, at almost 8,300 feet also joined the campaign. Mana, the last village of Uttarakhand, inspired by the astounding efforts of Bhuwan, pledged that cleanliness is not only necessary for self but also valuable for the country.
Surender Singh Rana, who lives in Divali Bagad village, Chamoli, says, “We are connected with “Mera Gaon Swachh Gaon” for more than a year and can observe the intriguing change in the village. We were never aware of the impact of cleanliness until Bhuwan Rawat came to our village.”
“Now, on the first and third Sundays of every month, villagers assemble at a scheduled time and conduct a cleanliness drive in the community. Consequently, eco-friendly dustbins are put in place so that commuters do not throw away trash anywhere. After this, lime is poured on the paths of the village to create a festival-like event. When anyone asks about the lime powder spread everywhere, the villagers proudly tell that they cleaned the village and are now celebrating. This message goes forward to other people. After this campaign, the villagers have now become confident that money is not always needed for national service,” he adds.
How does it work?
Bhuvna Devi, President of Mahila Mangal Dal in Kandara, Pauri, says, “Since Engineer Bhuwan has come to the village for cleaning, our lives have changed, we feel proud when an outsider visits our village – a self-help group organisation in Uttarakhand. We do the work every 1st and 3rd Sundays. It is my duty to float the message to all the villagers so that we meet at a certain time without a miss. Everyone gathers and we divide the work among teams. One is to look after the pits and others work to beautify the village. After doing the cleaning job for almost two hours, we gather again and sing folk songs of Garhwal to celebrate the accomplishment of the task.”
Gifting Dustbins on Marriages and Anniversary
According to Bhuwan, most of the wastage and trash are offloaded on marriages and religious processions. “This is also an opportunity for us to meet a lot of locals and spread awareness against the mounting garbage lumps in our villages, towns,” he says.
So, one day he went to attend a marriage procession with a dustbin recycled from used cardboard box. He gifted the dustbin to the bride and groom and spoke about the growing trash menace we have pushed our country into. “People laughed and then applauded my stance,” Bhuwan says.
He also talks about the merits of reducing wastage in our daily lives to curb the increasing filth in our country. According to Bhuwan, this is one of the best ways a civilian can contribute to his country, so that when a soldier posted at the border comes to his village on leave, he feels proud about.
Helping Rural Schools
In addition to his cleaning campaign, Bhuwan has also established a forum for volunteering in schools with a dearth of teachers. This forum has identified 14 schools in Pauri where regularly books, bags are distributed to students as per their need. The students and their parents are also informed about the goodness of maintaining hygiene and cleanliness.
Bhuwan was facilitated by Central Minister Uma Bharti and Education Minister Dr Dhan Singh Rawat, for his exemplary contribution to ‘Swachh Bharat Mission’. Change-makers like Bhuwan are very less in numbers but make an impact on citizens’ intellect to stand up for a cause and make their world a better place.