BENGALURU: Twenty-one-year-old Pratik Shetty had been thinking of “doing something good” for a while. Particularly about cleaning up his neighbourhood, Koramangala.
“There was no big story or an incident that triggered it,” he says. “One day I decided to act on what I had been wanting to do and walked out for a chat with shopkeepers in the locality. I asked them if I could place a garbage bin in their shops.” Pratik was taken aback because they were easily convinced and very receptive. This was in April this year.
He started the group Keep India Clean (KIC) and through Facebook invited people to be part of it. Membership is easy, those interested have to follow five steps — print stickers, convince shops to place the bins, reward them with a ‘cafe-recognition’ sticker when they agree, take photos and upload them.
Within four months, 102 volunteers have signed up from across 25 cities. “New Delhi with 20 to 30 volunteers is the most active,” says Pratik. “There is this perception that we are dirty and trash a place, but actually people are enthusiastic about Swachch Bharat... They simply don’t have a platform to get them started.” Many are troubled when they see litterbugs but it is not easy to intervene as an individual. “But if they say they are with KIC, or any such larger group, then there is an automatic legitimacy to their request,” says the founder of an edutech startup Minion.
Most of the volunteers are school and college students, and one is a working professional who is yet to complete the ‘five-steps’.
Pratik’s startup is working on hardware and software solutions but since it is in “stealth” mode, he cannot reveal much about its work.
KIC works also because it is decentralised, says Pratik. “We say become a ‘member by action’, there are no registration forms or any such formalities.” The initiative also won the Skoch Swachch Bharat Award in Civic Engagement this year.
Shopkeepers are mostly open to the idea. “It is not a completely rosy picture,” says the founder. “Eight out of ten say ‘yes’, there are the other two”.
He knows that the next step is waste segregation and then comes waste management. “But, the journey of a thousand steps starts with one. We’ve started with the bins,” he says. “We can’t tackle all at once and are working on the others.” They will also work on spot fixing in the coming months.