One for the community

Members of an active youth group in Ballari clearing a park to plant trees.

A clean public space is a basic necessity today. Growing population and apathy among the people may be a cause of lack of sanitation and mismanagement of waste. However, there have been efforts by certain like-minded people who have helped improving community sanitation and building a sustainable environment in the town of Kottur, Ballari district.

From cleanliness drives to desilting lakes and planting saplings, the many initiatives here are scripting several tales of success. One such individual is Nagaraj Banjar, a physical education instructor who is instrumental in the Clean Kottur campaign.

Small steps

Nagaraj begins his day early, setting out on a bicycle with a loudspeaker, through which he requests the people to not relieve themselves in public spaces.  It all began when he lost his father in 2012, and in order to overcome his grief he joined a team of pourakarmikas and cleaned the roads along with them. Inspired by the Swachh Bharat Mission, he conceived the idea of Swachh Kottur Mission. He roped in a few like-minded youths who decided to work for garbage collection and its scientific disposal. Recognising his efforts, deputy commissioner awarded him a bicycle. Today, Banjar’s bicycle is in a way a mascot for the sanitation drive.

He spent from his pocket to install boards that displayed content on environmental protection and sanitation. He got booklets printed on various governmental schemes on curtailing open defecation. He has been involved in many awareness programmes and has also donated hand gloves and masks to the pourakarmikas. 

Among the many individuals involved in social change is Anche Kotresh, who was involved in getting rid of the ‘Ballari Jaali’ (Prosopis juliflora) grown at a lake spread over an 852-acre land. He formed a group called the Namma Kere, Namma Balaga. With the support of the government, local youth the Balaga removed about 30,000 tractor loads of silt from the lake, giving it a new lease of life. Its success story has inspired residents of neighbouring villages who are taking up similar initiatives at 16 other lakes.

Meet Krishna Singh whose story is no different. His day begins with trees, he takes care of saplings and plants. Not just Singh, there are a few others like Umesh, Veerendra, JCB Ajjappa, Kulkarni, Ashok Kere who are engaged in cleaning the rivulets.

Umesh is known for growing plants at a garden on Nekar street, while Veerendra, a high school teacher doesn’t leave a stone unturned in creating awareness about sanitation and community health.

Then there are the Gachchin Math boys, a group of like-minded people and Yuva Brigade members who cleaned the Gachchina Math Kalyani, which was littered. The squad is a volunteer-led initiative to facilitate the community sanitation. The group has raised awareness and has taken measures to prevent the pollution of the pond. 

Besides these initiatives, the members of the local Sir M Visvesvaraya Engineers’ Association have also a burial ground. Besides collecting funds from the town panchayat, they also raised funds towards cleaning the burial ground. They constructed a compound wall, wrote messages creating awareness on various issues, and even planted saplings across the compound.

These initiatives are an attempt to facilitate change at the grassroots level, and the Teru Bayalu Basaveshwara Sangha which came out with Namma Oni, Namma Hakku campaign under which they installed environment-friendly Ganesha idols and distributed 5,000 saplings last year as prasadam.

Transforming societies

“Our cleanliness drives are encouraging others elsewhere. Our goal is a clean and healthy Kottur,” points out Vikram Nandi. With their initiatives, these youths call for a cleaner Kottur by beautifying roadsides and corners that make for common garbage dump sites. They have given several filthy spots, a much-needed makeover.

As it always happens, there was no encouragement for their efforts in the initial days. Residents would often say ‘nothing is going to change’. However, the insults did not deter them from pursuing their goal. They had a target, while their efforts were focused. Very soon things turned around, there was a change. 

The pontiffs too have supported these activities. He arranges breakfasts every Sunday for the youth. Besides, the local people have further motivated the youth to keep up the efforts and supported them in little ways. 

Many residents in and around Kottur town are now aware of the need to maintain clean surroundings, dispose off waste responsibly and develop healthy sanitary practices. The efforts of the many groups have paved way for a clean society. 

(Translated by Jagadish Angadi)

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