Mount Abu: Situated at the height of 4000 ft on the Aravalli Range is the only hill station of Western India. This mountain town is believed to be the abode of guru Vashistha, one of the Saptharishi, who is credited with for being the author of Mandala7 of the Rigveda.
Being the only hill station of Rajasthan and nearby Gujarat, it has always been a popular retreat for tourist for many years. Tourism is the main source of economy for the 20000+ population of this small hilly town.
With huge influx of tourist during the summer season, we have always faced major issue of excessive plastic waste. Also to add to that Gujarat being a dry state and this being a border town of Rajasthan, we have major influx of tourist during every weekends, as liquor is available and it creates a lot of piling up of waste Liquor bottles, which people throw everywhere after consuming.
Mount Abu is connected to outside world with a single artery road designated MDR60. Our nearest railway station Abu Road is 28 kms away. This stretch of road which consist 19.5Km of Ghat can be called the Life Line of Abu. If this roads closes during monsoon, Mount Abu is totally disconnected from the outside world.
On this 19.5kms of ghat road which run through a reserved Eco-Sensitive jungle there are several viewpoints with spectacular views of the plains below. Usually tourist stop at these spots and litters these viewpoints.
Majority of Locals including me zip through this stretch of road without stopping, as for us hill guys these stunning views are part of life, nothing unusual or spectacular, so to speak. During one of such work trips to Abu Road last November, I was climbing this ghat in a leisurely manner because that day we manage to complete our work way before time. Me and my staff stopped at these viewpoints to click images. We were appalled to find the amount of plastic waste and liquor bottle that were lying around. Then further we decided to stop at other viewpoints too. Other spots had the same story to tell. Each spot seems dirtier than the previous ones.
Next day I approached our SDM, Mr Abhishek Surana, who being a good friend, had the same story for me. He who uses that road on daily basis due to his line of work, was also observing the same for past many months and was worried more. He as an avid environmentalist was thinking for a solution on personal level because practically this piece of stretch does not come under his jurisdiction but Forest Department. Now Forest Department has always been understaff and underfunded for any such work. We two decided to make this as a voluntary people’s movement. He asked me to plan a course of action, and that he and his office will support it in every manner possible.
Being a Fauji brat and despite of being a1st generation entrepreneur, I have a knack for planning and executing any such large scale projects. Previously in 2019 too I had planned and carried out a very successful large scale cleaning event of our beloved Nakki Lake as a part of Swacch Bharat Abhiyan.(That event which warrant a different article) It was planned only within 3 days as a joke and challenge with same group of friends who are with me in this current project.. With 80 tons of waste from drybed of lake it was done with military precision.
After meeting SDM, I approached my friends, Now I have a group of like minded guys who are always ready to jump to whatever madness I throw to them. Usually these madness comes in a garb of many socially aware projects which none had thought before. They unanimously agreed and said why the hell not. You plan… we do. We made a WhatsApp Group with just 9 people and started to plan from there. Talk of using technology for a social cause. We chose the date of final execution for 15th December 2022, Wednesday, We avoided Weekends to avoid the tourist traffic, which would have caused road hazard. This was a gamble, being a week day everybody would be at work. Lets see who will take a day off from their work and businesses for a social cause!!
We decided to make huge hoardings and erect them on various town square, prior permission of which was already given by SDM. This was done throughout the night by the same group of crazy friend.
Meanwhile my staff from office had printed Volunteer Registration Form and distributed at different hot spot of the town. Like restaurants owned by friends, Barber Shop, Pan Shop, you name it.
Next day we pick our cars and bikes and decided to survey the road. I decided to plan this with the same formula I used during the Lake Cleaning Project of 2019, Only this time it was 19.5 kms instead of 3.5 kms which is the circumference of our beloved lake. I decided to fractionalize this 19.5 kms into small stretch of 1 or 1.5 kms and give them to each volunteer groups. Speaking of Volunteer Groups, Except for us 9 crazy people we had none at the moment. Only consolation was that I had 14 days to plan instead of just 3 days during the previous Lake Cleaning Project.
During the course of coming weeks we made 5 such trips, carefully marking the spots taking their GPS locations. On one of the later trip we went in our cars with Paint and Brush and marked the Spots. Labelled as Simple, Medium and Severely littered only in our file, and not on roads, anticipating that may cause resentment among volunteers, on what group got what spot.
With this site survey we had already exhausted 6 days of our 14 days of planning. Even with Big Hoarding flashing across the town we had limited volunteers registration. Everybody in town thought it was such a crazy and too ambitious of an idea, that it couldn’t be done in weeks, let alone we were planning to do this in a single day. Usually Swacch Bharat Abhiyan across the country involved cleaning a campus, or park or beach, or any small spot. Nobody thought of cleaning a 19 kms of highway that too in a single day event.
Finally we decided to involve military, CRPF and Air Force and sent them formal invitations. They were so happy to be part of the event when they heard the details about it. Now message was loud and clear that it was our town, and we have to keep clean. If people who had transferable job and in our town for limited period of time are so eager, why not the locals. Within two days we had registrations of more than 800 people. SDM Mr Surana was kind enough to call a general meeting in our towns Public Library to discuss the planning with interested volunteers.
By this time there was lot of press coverage of the event, and calls started to pour in such frequency that, throughout that week I hardly slept for even 2 hours. Each one was eager to support the event, many offered me with monetary help which was refused straight away. Instead we asked for essential stuff, like gloves, sanitizer, Soap, refreshments, drinking water and things of that nature.
The event had grown so big and the work load was so much that I decided to create a few sublet core group and distribute work among them. The group used to meet 2-3 times a day to discuss the plans and any new ideas.
Later that day few volunteers who happen to be my staff from office went and marked the roads with FLAGS, Flag cloth was donated by Shri Bhawar Bhai, a local cloth merchant, whose staff even stitched it for flag pole. The painting on flag was done by Shri Dhawanji, a local hoarding painter who recently passed away. Water bottle were donated by Rotary Club. Lunch for all the volunteers were committed by Hotel Hillock, a 4 star luxury hotel, The director Mrs Geeta Agarwal being our family friend.
Since the planned event would start at 6 AM in the morning, we had to start with breakfast and tea and same was committed by Hotel Association of Mount Abu, one of the two Major Hotel Association of our town. Mr Bhasker Agarwal and Yusuf Khan the Chairman and Secretary being a personal friend and also my clients. With so much overwhelming support from 90% of the population, I had yet to hear from few associations whom I had high hopes for but were somehow not keen, the reasons best known to them.
As this unique, never before tried, Swatch Bharat Abhiyan was not confined to a campus or area, we had 19.5 kms of Hilly Highway to clean. Our major concern was Transportation. Volunteers Registrations, by this time had swollen to nearly 1200+. Many didn’t had their own bikes or vehicle. A meeting was planned that evening and request were sent to concerned organisation. On final day we had 3 Buses given each by CRPF, Air-Force, Brahma Kumaris Organisation. Army was unable to commit due to reason I will explain later. Two of the 5 Taxi Union of our town were keen to help and they provided two of their Sumo and Tempo Trax. In our city we have Rent a Bike service, Thanks to Shri Narpat Charan, their Chairman , They Provided 15 Activas with Fuel to be used by Volunteers for essential material movement on event day.
Essential Items like Gloves, Spade, Garbage Bags, protective safety Equipment, were provided by our Muncipalty. We had requested SDM for the Garbage Dumper Trucks. He obliged us with 5 smaller trucks and 2 Big ones. Later Forest Department guys were also keen to join the movement even with their limited man power.
Just, Night before the event interesting event happened. A call came at about 10 pm from Sub Sanjay Sir from Garwhal Rifles which is stationed in our town. Previously Army had denied to participate because the whole unit were in field exercise remotely. Only 25+ essential personal were stationed. Now the CO Col Deshmukh had a meeting with Sub Sanjay Sir that evening, and was anxious to participate because he said he felt left out when other Similar Organisation was participating in this Noble Cause.. He immediately ordered Sanjay sir to call me and gave me a list of 15 men, One Truck and one Gypsy. Leaving only few sentry for the day. Such was the level of Inspiration this event had caused.
Now the Final Plan!
Plan was very simple, We divided 19.5 kms Stretch into 18 Zones of 700meter, 1kms or 1.5 kms each. Depending on severity of litter, Terrain difficulty. Each locations was GPS market and Flag was hoisted at the beginning and end of each zones. Each of these Zones were given to Volunteer Organisation depending upon their capability and GPS location was shared on their Team Leader mobile. For Example severe spots were given to Army. Air Force, CRPF/NDRF. Mountainous Ghat section were given to Vivekananda Mountaineering Institute. Ladies organisation, were given less far areas. School Children were given section that had no Ghats.
On the course of this 19.5 Kms we made 5 Help Desk, manned by 3 volunteers and an Activa was given. Each of this help Desk had Medical Essential, Garbage bag, Gloves, Mask. These essential were already delivered throughout the stretch of highway early morning by the Logistics teams. So if any volunteer group needed anything they just had to contact their nearest Help desk which was just 2 km either way. Two Vehicle were constantly roaming with PA equipment for any extra help and to coordinate between all these 5 help desk. Ambulance and two trained Nurses were provided by Global Hospital for the day. Mukesh Bhai, my old friend who is a sound engineers and a local DJ donated the PA equipment. With all this figured out and all loop holes checked, what could possible go wrong?
And there were various sub team made to manage Breakfast, Lunch, Medical Emergency, each of whom did their work with military precision.
We started at 5 AM , Teams started to arrive at 6 AM, Enthusiasm was so much that we manage to clean the whole road before lunch, It didn’t even lasted till evening. We few members of the Core Group had to stay till evening, because we had to load the garbage, collect all equipment’s and deliver to organisation that had donated it for the day.
The event was huge success. We anticipated two Dump Trucks would suffice, later we had to recall two more trucks for the aggregated garbage. All in all it was 4 truckloads of Garbage with 1200 volunteers working just till 2 PM.
Hoping this article will inspire many! The formula can be used as a template to perform any big or similar task. With this event I tried my best how put an idea into motion, by mobilizing large section of like minded people, how to use government resources efficiently and in a very cost effective manner. The event was covered by many news channel and papers later, each one had their own version, because with such work loads for planning the gigantic event we did not had time to give any media bites.
I tried my best to prove no task is bigger, if you have will power to do so. And friends and people will always follow suit for a good cause.
Closing this article with an old saying which best describes my every project….
मैं अकेला ही चला था जनिब-ए-मंज़िल मगर लोग साथ आते गाए और करवां बंता गया:…