The students of Sri Venkateswara College took to the roads and metros of the city to spread a word of change.

Being the capital state of the country; the city of Delhi has all the rights in the world to flaunt its extravagance. It has to its attribution- a rich cultural heritage with a pinch of apparent haunting, a tumultuous yet boastful past, a humongous yet solitary diversity, and the tag of a metropolitan. A metropolitan form only the frame to the entire portrait of the city of Delhi; the colors and the strokes come from the lanes and the by-lanes that intersect life in the different parts.

To get a taste of the city and to improve it, the volunteers of ‘Parivartan’- the independent social service society of Sri Venkateswara College- carried out an awareness cum cleanliness drive in different parts of the city. The volunteers were divided into groups and sent to cover several areas in around the metros. Ten places were covered in total, including- Hauz Khas, Rajiv Chowk, Saket, INA, Chandni Chowk, AIIMS, Central Secratariat and Race Course.
All the student volunteers were armed with self-made posters, each of which had very strong messages pertaining to the two issues that were being addressed, namely, food wastage and the upcoming reiteration of the saga of bursting crackers; which at the end of the day leaves the city in deep despair, thereby, turning a blind eye to the blind city.

With the approaching season of Diwali, the amount of crackers burnt becomes quite evident through the aftermath- ‘THE GREAT INDIAN SMOG’ that covers the entire city till winter sets in. The other groups were involved in spreading a word against smoking and littering in public spaces. The presence of two different-coloured dustbins for wet and dry waste was acknowledged. The volunteers also urged the passers-by not to litter their own spaces, thereby, keeping the city clean. After all, Rajpath is not the face of the city!

Slogans like- ‘Burn your ego, not crackers’- were eye-capturing enough to draw a large part of the crowd towards the volunteers. Sharing his experience, Tushar Bhatia, a first year student states, “The drive was an interesting experience. Initially, everything did not go as planned and all of us had to improvise on the spot which made it even better”. From the metro station to the park and through the distributary lanes to the main road till the Red Fort and back; this was the exact course through which Chandni Chowk was covered. The Sun was at its peak and so were the volunteers. The weather only ignited their enthusiasm that could not be dampened by their perspiration or the scent that the hot breeze carried.

Apart from just the ambience, it is quite interesting to note that they got encouragement form the passers-by as well. Prateek Mittal shares, “I felt really good during the drive. I could see that our posters had attracted a lot of attention and people got our message. It felt very nice when a policeman walked up to us and said”, “achchha kaam kar rahe ho” (you are doing a great job)”.
Apart from just interacting, a signature campaign was also carried out- #NoMoreHungerNoMoreShor- wherein, volunteers were seen getting people to sign the chart that they were carrying. The signature campaign added further impetus to the entire drive with people coming up themselves and asking questions regarding the two issues. Slogans like-“What your tongue likes to taste, would you let it go to waste?”- were successful in garnering people’s attention as well as support. The volunteers were successful in dealing with the passers-by in a much matured manner, since, the entire thing was unplanned. The volunteers used heavy statistics that proved their stance like the number of bird-deaths and how it is harmful to the ecology as well. Aparajita Choudhary, a second year student shared, “All Delhiites have been experiencing the smog that covers the city for weeks after Diwali. It was enough to indicate the perils of burning crackers, peril for both humans as well as the ecology. Many people shared with us, their stories of mishandling of crackers that led or could have led to major accidents. Older people reflected apathy since they had lost interest over the years. They expressed that even though it made them irritable, they did not mind saying anything in the interest of the youth”.

The volunteers experienced helping hands from the crowds as well. There were people who came up to them and upon clarifying their queries, chipped in their ideas as well.

Talking about the effectiveness of the drive; it was definitely a red-letter day event. But a lot of hands need to join to bring about a big change. As Rajat Sharma, a first year student from the same institution puts it, “I guess this initiative was effective as well as highly potential to bring about a change in the society. Those who genuinely wish for the betterment of the society will definitely put their best foot forward. After all, one is enough to make a difference, and we were quite a lot.
As Kamalika Anand, one of the executive heads’ puts it, “This was just the first step”.

Image Credits: Parivartan Society, SVC

Shrija Ganguly
[email protected]

By Arvind Kejriwal

Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kharagpur, he joined Indian Revenue Service in 1992. He started Parivartan, a Delhi based citizen’s movement for transparency and accountability in governance, in 2000. He was awarded Ramon Magsaysay award in the year 2006 for emergent leadership for his contribution to Right to Information movement in India.

Have you ever seen the same road or footpath being made several times over but the road in front of your house never gets repaired? We wonder why the government can’t ask us before taking these decisions.

A silent revolution has just begun in Delhi. People in some parts of Delhi are directly taking decisions about governance of their area. Local officials and politicians simply obey their verdicts. Sounds incredible?

Residents of Trilokpuri and Sonia Vihar were one day surprised to receive a letter from their ward councilor stating that the councilor had decided to do only those things which the people of his/her area direct him/her to do. “I feel that Indian democracy is a farce. People elect their leaders once every five years and then plead before them in the next five years. I have decided to change this. I will do only those things which you direct me to do,” said the letter.

Initiated in Delhi by Swaraj Abhiyan along with the councilors of these two wards, each ward has been divided into 10 mohallas. All residents of a mohalla are members of mohalla sabha. Each mohalla sabha meets once in two months. The councilor and all local municipal officials are present at mohalla sabha meetings. People decide how the municipal funds should be used in that mohalla. Till now, some officials or politicians used to take those decisions. Now, you can just walk into these mohalla sabhas and demand that your road be repaired. Your demand would be taken down as minutes of meeting and funds would be sanctioned on the spot by the councilor. If the number of proposals received are more than the funds available, then voting takes place to decide priority i.e. which work should be done first.

These councilors have announced that the payment for any work would be done to a contractor only if mohalla sabha expresses satisfaction. This would deal a body blow to corruption. Roads, which used to come off within a few days of being made, would now hopefully last their life.

Lists of those who are poor and deserve government social security benefits like old age pension, handicapped pension, widow pension etc are now being made in these mohalla sabhas. People collectively, transparently and openly decide who is the poorest and deserves pensions. Earlier, only party people or those close to the councilor used to benefit from these schemes.

The Lieutenant Governor of Delhi has not only congratulated these councilors but has also requested the Municipal Commissioner to explore the possibility of starting this in other parts of Delhi.

Arti Mehra, former Mayor of Delhi has decided to start this experiment in her ward from 1st September 2009.

The ball is now in the people’s court. The students and youth have a greater responsibility. Join Swaraj Abhiyan. Start this experiment in your area as well. Contact us at 9718255455.