They may not have a large number of members or a significant pool of money to bank on while organising drives, but the citizens’ group of Wanowrie Residents Forum (WRF) has, in its own way, been successful in bringing small changes in their neighbourhood with the help of one thing: sheer willpower.
Launched almost a decade ago, the forum, which is unregistered, has almost 60 members.
From cleaning nullahs to organising cleanliness drives at hills and parks, to taking the Pune Municipal Corporation head on, the forum has come a long way in the last 10 years or so.
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“These days, we have fewer active members but thankfully, we get a lot of support from the community which has seen our work, so our drives are successful. What amazes us is that unlike other groups, which have some amount of funds with them, we have no cash and yet we manage to pull it off. For example, there was a theft in our neighbourhood recently and we wanted to organise an activity on safety. One society allowed us to use its hall, someone organised tea etc and there we all were. I think our group is proving that you don’t need money or even too much manpower to make a difference,” said Maithili Manakwad, secretary of the WRF.
Issues pertaining to the environment and solid waste management are topmost on the forum’s agenda.
“I think the first major activity we had was cleaning the nullahs along Wanowrie area. We organised as many as 8-10 drives and saw so much participation from the locals… everyone got involved, especially the youth. Even my son and his friends used to collect bags and bags of filth…. Recently we have taken up cleanliness issues in a big way and we organised a rally, where we stood with placards, advising people on environmental issues. The latest was a ‘Say No Plastic Rally’, organised on November 26, along with students of the Delhi Public School. The students designed the placards… they went to each shop located on Salunke Vihar Road…,” she said.
The group is also trying to find a way to remove illegal hawkers encroaching on footpaths; they have petitioned the PMC several times over the issue but to no avail.
They have also been fighting against illegal hoardings. “We are popularising the sky sign link of PMC, where one can complain if they see an illegal hoading. We are encouraging members to take photos of the hoardings and send it to the PMC. While the bigger hoardings are easily visible, the smaller hoardings get away as they go unnoticed,” said Radhikesh Uttarwar, an advocate and social activist.
Another issue is garbage segregation, and Manakwad admitted that they have only had limited success. “It is a habit which is difficult to break, but nevertheless, we are trying. In my society, garbage segregation is done in as many as 95 per cent cases. And in many other societies, especially where our members live, we have managed to achieve it… though we would like it to happen in our entire area. There have been times when we have chased the ghanta gaadi (garbage van) and asked them not to collect garbage which was not segregated, and ask the society members to do it,” said Manakwad.
At the moment, the biggest issue, and possibly the most serious one, is garbage burning. The WRF has written to the officials of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board as well, complaining against the inaction by the PMC and the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) centre.
“Despite that, there is no resolution in sight. Under the BPMC act, the PMC can make budgetary allocation to construct compost pits. If the PMC has such a facility at each ward or locality, it can resolve the issue altogether,” said Uttarwar.