"A lot of people tend to blame the government for dirty spots in the city. At some point we citizens are also responsible," these changemakers say.
Swati Bhalla and Manish Khurana are on a mission – they want to clean up Delhi and NCR. And they mean business.
After all, since 2014 they have conducted over 30 cleanliness drives across the region, transforming entire pockets of land into small havens. But to hear them talk, you realise that they have only just begun.
It was in 2014 when Swati decided to start a project to take up a few places in Delhi that are dirty and start cleaning them up on her own, along with some friends. A few months down the line, Manish joined the endeavour and since then the duo, along with dedicated volunteers, ensure that “We Mean to Clean” has continued its incredible work.
Here’s how it works
The team identifies parts of Delhi and NCR whose upkeep has been completely neglected, and which are afflicted by problems like open defecation and urination. Then, they reach out to city authorities and link with the respective ward counsellors in order to get the city’s collaboration on the project.
According to Swati and Manish, city officials are generally enthusiastic about collaborations and begin the clean-up work a week before the drive begins. The cleanliness drives, by themselves, take about four to five hours in a day.
With a bevy of concerned citizens and volunteers, the team then starts transforming the areas through art.
Manish says that while it is easy to blame the government for the lack of upkeep of cities, some amount of responsibility ought to be shared by citizens too. “A lot of people tend to blame the government for dirty spots in the city. At some point we citizens are also responsible. And if we are responsible for cleaning the mess in our homes, then we should be responsible for clearing the mess in our cities too.”
It is with that mindset that the team, along with volunteers that range from children to corporate professionals, have cleaned up different parts of Delhi and NCR from Tilak Nagar to Janakpuri.
The team also reaches out to locals who stay in those areas to enlist their help in these projects.
This, according to the duo, gives the locals a sense of ownership and hence they are also likely to work towards ensuring that these areas remain clean after the drives are completed.
“We also have volunteers who go back to old regions and inspect to see if they are still being maintained. Essentially when a place looks new, people will think twice about dirtying it or littering it,” comments Manish.
Both Swati and Manish run We Mean to Clean on the side, in addition to having jobs in MNCs. They say they have been able to keep up with their passion for cleaning up the Delhi-NCR region with the help of others who share their passion. “We are primarily self-funded but there have been times when we have had corporate backing or the city authorities have themselves given us quotes to work on.”
Their work on cleaning up the city has become so popular that at times people approach them to help clean up their localities or send word through their website.
But conducting regular cleanliness drives isn’t all in this duo’s radar. They also want to influence collective “mass behaviour” and take their work to larger public. “We would like to spread it as much as possible as much as possible in NCR. But we also want people to see what we do, including those who volunteer with us and take up their own areas to clean up and champion,” notes Manish.
According the team behind We Mean to Clean, championing civic causes is surprisingly simple. “You don’t have to do anything big. If there are people who are dumping garbage near your home, you can start with cleaning that up. You can also reach out to your civic authorities; they are always willing to help. They will never stop you from cleaning your city. Then just enlist a few friends or family members and get to work,” advices Manish.
As Swati puts it, it is really quite easy to start a similar initiative. “People should start taking action. Instead of blaming and complaining about how things aren’t changing, just go out there and do it yourself. Form of group of friends and start. It’s simple.”
Photo source: Facebook
The team can be contacted here