City buses in MP's Jabalpur being repurposed to serve as river-side changing rooms for women
A study revealed that there was an urgent need of properly protected changing rooms for women on the Narmada riverfront, which is thronged by devotees during festivals.
BHOPAL: City buses headed to the scrap yard are being put to good use in Jabalpur, being repurposed to serve as river-side changing rooms for women, as night shelters for the homeless and libraries for slum children, writes Anuraag Singh.
Rather than mindlessly scrapping city buses which are past their best-use-by date, the authorities in Jabalpur city in Madhya Pradesh recently decided to have them redesigned to serve day-to-day civic needs of the ordinary citizens under an initiative being termed as ‘kabaad se kamaal’ (waste to wonder) project.
Prodded by Swapnil Wankhade, a 2016 batch IAS officer serving as the city’ municipal commissioner, several buses have been turned to serve as riverside changing rooms for women, night shelters for the destitute, and libraries for slum children.
In the months to come, there are plans to turn other discarded city buses waiting to be sold as scrap into mobile police chowkis to keep vigil over areas unsafe for women, and into a ‘wonder house’ for kids at the Dumna Nature Reserve.
Not only are these initiatives being hailed by the residents of Jabalpur, but have also received acclaim at a worldwide contest of cities hosted in London in July by Bernard van Leer Foundation which works for the care of babies, toddlers and young children.
“I was surprised to see that city buses being operated in the city under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), being sold as scrap at very low prices on getting discarded. Having seen old and discarded vehicles being turned into venues of commercial ventures, we decided to adopt the concept of transforming big city buses to serve the necessities of the residents. The Jabalpur Nagar Nigam (JNN) cleared the waste-to-wonder concept, after which we began studying the areas where the concept could be successfully adopted,” said Wankhade.
A study revealed that there was an urgent need of properly protected changing rooms for women on the Narmada riverfront, which is thronged by devotees during festivals. As permanent construction was banned on the riverfront under Supreme Court directives, the JNN decided to implement its new idea there.
“Gwari Ghat, which is the busiest Narmada river ghat in Jabalpur, was selected and soon the work began at our workshop in the Nagar Nigam to turn the bus into a changing room. It began with a bus being turned into a changing room for women,” Wankhade said.
While the cost of transforming each bus came to Rs 1 lakh initially, it has now been reduced to ` 40,000.
“Next in line were the ‘Rain Basera’ (night shelters) and library for kids in slum areas. One by one, we turned the discarded buses into these facilities. A six bed ‘Rain Basera’, equipped with fans and proper lighting, was subsequently established at the Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) in Jabalpur under 24 hour CCTV surveillance to ensure proper security,” chief executive officer of Jabalpur City Transport Services Limited (JCTSL) Sachin Vishwakarma said.
The bus-turned-shelters have been particularly designed to address the needs of the destitute during the winter. They are currently proving to be of great aid to students coming into the city for competitive exams and attendants of patients admitted at hospitals.
“All those who cannot afford hotels or even low-priced lodges are making the most of the novel night shelter bus,” ISBT in-charge SK Upadhyaya said.
After catering to the needs of women on Narmada Ghat and poor people searching for shelters at the ISBT, the authorities decided to shift their attention to slum-dwelling children, who were yearning for proper libraries as the existing ones were being used mostly by students preparing for competitive exams.
It paved the way for developing discarded buses into libraries for children, which initially contained comic books, but have now expanded to hold books for students of classes V to VIII.
“The first such library was stationed near the Ranital Velodrome Cycling Ground to address the needs of children from the Ujar Purwa slum. Another such library will soon come up in Mandwa slum areas in the city,” said Jaideep Mishra, representative of the NGO tasked with maintaining and running the unique library.
While six buses have so far been repurposed to cater to three diverse humanitarian needs, work is underway to transform another discarded city bus into a mobile police booth for the Mahila Police, which will keep a strict vigil on places vulnerable for young girls and women.
“We’re also working on transforming another discarded city bus into a ‘wonder-world’, full of swings and amusement for kids, at the Dumna Nature Reserve. Once the monsoon and elections are over, we’ll ensure that both these novel facilities are put in place, besides increasing the number of buses turned into changing rooms, night shelter and libraries,” Wankhade said.
Initiatives to develop secure gardens for children, fueled by the waste-to-wonder vision, particularly the library for slum children, saw Jabalpur becoming the only city in India to make it among 10 finalists from across the globe, at the London contest.
“We were the only Indian city in the finals, where nine other finalists included cities from Mexico, Jordan, Greece, Brazil, Poland and Irish capital Dublin. Not only was our presentation praised, but a team from London will be visiting Jabalpur in November to see our waste-to-wonders initiative on the ground. We hope that the initiatives will be replicated across the world,” Wankhade said.