Sitting in an air-conditioned room, sipping chai, signing documents, meeting numerous people every day to learn about the issues they are facing, and giving them assurances about better days in the future.
For most of us, this pretty much sums up a day in the life of a typical Indian government official, isn’t it?
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But what if I tell you that a District Collector is dirtying his hands to ensure that the region under his jurisdiction remains clean?
On 21 July (Sunday), District Collector Vijay Kulange joined ‘Team Clean City,’ (TCC) a citizen-led organisation in Berhampur, Odisha, and dedicated a couple of hours to remove illegal posters from the PVN Rao petrol pump.
Once that was done, the rest of the group carried on and continued the good work in parks, movie halls and other public places.
TCC was formed a month ago under the leadership of Saktidhar Rajguru, a journalist by profession. The movement to remove illegal posters from public areas was kicked off from MKCG Medical College square.
“After a few morning walkers and I removed illegal posters from walls, we shared our efforts on Facebook, and the movement picked up. Within 25 days around 100 people joined us, and soon the work spread across the city. Upon reading about us online, Collector Kulange contacted us to appreciate the efforts. Little did we know he would actually turn up. It was very encouraging for the team,” Rajguru tells The Better India.
Kulange, a 2013 batch IAS officer was posted in the district last year, and since then, the government official has been taking steps to make both citizens and district officials more accountable, keeping the district clean being his priority.
Speaking to The Better India, the District Collector says, “Keeping public areas clean is as much a responsibility of citizens as it is of the government. The group’s mindset to take up the ownership of their city and bring a change without the government’s intervention is very impressive. Their efforts are laudable, and everyone should follow this practice.”
Besides helping the people and setting an example, Kulange also issued a warning across the city against the activity of sticking posters. The district administration will soon start imposing fines in case of violations.
Kulange’s day out with the citizens resulted in more people joining the movement. “The participation of people is increasing by the day,” says Rajguru.
A week after the above incident, Kulange surprised paddy cultivation farmers in the Bharasa village.
He interacted with them about the issues, financial problems and techniques they are using to cultivate rice. Soon after, he decided to join in and plant paddy saplings.
Images of the District Collector removing posters and paddy cultivation have created a wave on social media, and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik took to Twitter to appreciate his actions.
“Ganjam district magistrate Vijay Amruta Kulange’s act of planting paddy saplings along with the farmers and telling them about the advantages of line planting signifies dedicated public service. I thank the district magistrate for working close to the people and with a sense of dedication,” reads the tweet.
While he is grateful to the Chief Minister for the generous words and the people who praised him, the humble Collector believes that he did not go out of his way or did nothing extraordinary.
“I am a fan of Spiderman, and his famous dialogue ‘with power comes great responsibility.’ I am responsible for the welfare of my people and the district. Whenever I get an opportunity I go outside my office to understand people’s problems, it is an easier way to address the crisis,” says Kulange.
Kulange now hopes to replicate the activities of Team Clean City across the district and ultimately end the practice of sticking posters in public areas.
“There is no issue in the world that citizens and government together cannot solve,” he concludes.
Featured Image Source: Vijay Kulange/Facebook
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)