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Clean Revolution

Clean Revolution

Author: Ramesh Vinayak
Publication: India Today
Dated: March 23, 2009
URL: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&&issueid=97&id=32145&sectionid=3&Itemid=1&page=in&latn=2

Introduction: Residents of a small Punjab town take matters in their own hands and transform their localities into model neighbourhoods from haphazard slum-like areas.

Until August 2005, Indira Colony was a veritable slum on the outskirts of Hoshiarpur, Punjab. An unplanned locality that came up in 1985 on the low-lying bed of a seasonal rivulet, it was perennially beset with squalid conditions, potholed streets, overflowing drains and garbage. Three years on, however, the 120-house cluster has seen a radical change-metalled streets, underground drainage and tiled footpaths. Most unbelievable is the ISO-140001 certification by Moody International for Indira Colony- India's first urban locality to get such a commendation. "It's been a life-changing experience from a slum to a showcase of cleanliness," says Ranjit Singh, president of the Indira Colony Residents' Association.

The residential area owes its transformation to a spirited 'clean and green' campaign spearheaded in 2004 by seven locals, who conceived and launched the selfhelp group. It has now turned into a public movement and has changed as many as 26 localities, improving civic conditions for nearly one lakh residents. "The idea was to involve the citizens in creating a better living environment instead of blaming the municipality," says Deepak Mittal, managing director of Sonalika Group, a homegrown industrial house. A beginning was made by reclaiming parks which had been turned into dumping grounds. The company pitched in with machinery while residents formed a registered society that raised contributions for maintenance of parks and disposal of waste.

"Not creating a corpus fund has helped in making locals the real stakeholders," says A.K. Gupta, chairman of the Clean and Green Club. The project is non-political, which makes the campaign credible. The economic spinoff is evident in higher real estate prices of these colonies. The campaign has forged a new bond among residents and now plans to cover all the 100-odd colonies in the city in the next three years. Getting societies registered has opened up government funds for development.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal granted Rs 30 lakh for a community centre and the Forest Department is providing saplings at subsidised rates. The club's plantation drive has a survival rate of 97 per cent. Clearly, the Hoshiarpur initiative has struck deep roots.

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