We know that India has a serious garbage problem. And, whenever we talk about solving the issue, we hear our officials complaining about the lack of funds or facilities to make it happen.
But, as they say, the real heroes are ordinary people who refuse to give up even in the light of adversities. They decide to make a difference in the lives of the people and there is hardly anything that can stop them.
One such example of heroism was displayed by Ritu Sain, a 2003-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, who turned Chhattisgarh’s Ambikapur city from a stinking place to a clean town where people would love to live.
Ritu Sain recalls the state of the town when she first landed here.
“There was a big signpost welcoming people to the municipal corporation of Ambikapur, and bang opposite that was a huge open dumping yard. The stink was unbearable. I thought to myself, what kind of impression the city would create if this was the first thing a person saw after entering,” she said.
When she took charge of the city as a collector, she knew about the challenges.
“There was no looking back since that day. I was clear about what I wanted to do,” Sain, now Chhattisgarh’s additional resident commissioner in Delhi, said.
“It was a challenge. The city with a population of 1,45,000 had meagre funds and hardly any capacity to take up the cleaning task. I knew whatever I did would have to be participatory, viable and replicable,” Sain, who studied international relations from Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University told HT.
Along with various stakeholders, Sain laid a plan. They started with the solid and liquid resource management model on a pilot basis in one ward.
To complete the task, women from various Self Help Groups (SHG) were approached. Each three-member team of SHG workers was assigned a 100 households from where they had to collect garbage.
The collected garbage was segregated into 24 categories of organic and inorganic waste. After multiple rounds of micro-segregation, the refined and cleaned waste was sold to scrap dealers.
By May 2016, all 48 wards were covered and the municipality also fined a user charge for door-to-door collections.
Currently, 447 women work in the 10-hour-long shift from 7 am to 5 pm daily at 48 garbage segregation centers. All the required safety measures along with the regular health checkups are put in place to ensure the safety of workers.
The immense power of the community has converted 16-acre dumping yard into a sanitation awareness park and has replaced 200 overflowing community dustbins with only five.
We are so proud of Ritu Sain on successfully executing this tough initiative and we hope other government officials will learn from her!
Do share the story of a woman, who has inspired you. And, we would capture her story on I For Her Platform.