By: Suyash Gabriel
Merely three months ago, Gurgaon’s Sector-14 market was littered with garbage, debris and broken dustbins covered in faded flyers. Now, the 25-foot stretch along the periphery of the market runs clean, complete with repaired dustbins, painted fences and even freshly planted saplings. The group responsible for this transformation call themselves Gurgaon Rising.]
This group claims to have been inspired by Bangalore-based ‘The Ugly Indian’, an anonymous coterie who organise “spot-fixes”, in which they clean up areas which have been neglected or besmirched. Gurgaon Rising, too, upholds the same ideology.
“The idea behind remaining anonymous is to draw attention to the work rather than a person. We do this to raise awareness and help clean the city. The Ugly Indian’s motto, kaam chalu muh bandh (stop talking, start working), is characteristic of the way we work,” a member of Gurgaon Rising says.
But, Gurgaon Rising isn’t the only anonymous group conducting spot fixes. Their capital counterpart, Delhi Rising, cleaned PVR Priya complex in April, involving residents as well as participants from other parts of the city.
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In fact, the Ugly Indian has inspired several such groups over the last year. These include Mumbai Rising and Chennai Rising, both of which follow the same principle.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old Delhi-based artist Ashwani Aggarwal had a slightly different idea. His organisation, Basicshit, cleans up areas where public urination is rampant.
“Urinating openly on the streets is a common habit, which shows little regard towards passersby. Even if urinals are built, they are poorly maintained. People rely on government to curb this menace, but the responsibility is ours as well,” Aggarwal says.
He began constructing and installing low-cost urinals at various locations in the city, including AIIMS Metro station and Safdarjung. “The sanitation drive of Basicshit is not limited to Delhi. We are also planning to install 20 urinals in Mumbai,” he says.
The cost of installing urinals is borne by members of the group, and they rely heavily on crowd funding, while depending on local residents for maintenance.
Several movements across the country are now deploying similar ‘do-it-yourself’ tactics to try and make a difference. Let’s do it!, a movement which began doing clean-ups and spot fixes, now attempts to engage citizens with sanitary issues through interventions.
“We want to make systemic changes. We pick one area and try interventions which can be replicated in other areas,” Anita Bhargava, the organiser of Let’s Do It, Delhi, says.
“The municipal official comes with residents, accepts responsibility for the task and sets a date of completion. This is recorded on video. In a month, we hold a meeting to assess the work,” she says.