Yahoo News: Street vendors, corporate hands clear Delhi garbage (Mar 20)

New Delhi, March 20 (IANS) At least 1,000 people, ranging from employees of leading corporate groups and the civic wings of the Delhi government to street vendors and individual volunteers, Saturday cleared more than 500 tonnes of litter from the Bhikaji Cama commercial complex in south Delhi in a unique citizens' initiative that aims to clean public spaces in the capital before the Commonwealth Games.

The initiative, 'Let's Do It Delhi,' is modelled on a clean-up campaign in the Baltic nation of Estonia where 50,000 people removed 10,000 tonnes of garbage in five hours May 3, 2008, the organisers of the campaign said.

'I saw a video clip of the Estonia clean-up on YouTube in mid-January. It was a source of inspiration. I always felt that the city was in a mess and someone had to take the responsibility to clean it up,' Anita Bhargava, the brain behind 'Let's Do It Delhi' told IANS.

'It was not possible to do so as an individual. I gathered a few friends, became proactive and started talking to people, including government agencies. I realised we could do a lot together,' she added.

Since 7 a.m., the beige and red ultra-urban concrete office complex, often hailed as a contemporary architectural masterpiece, was a hive of activity.

Volunteers clad in white T-shirts with 'Let's Do It' logos, gloves and caps scraped dirt and picked garbage from every nook and cranny of the complex and dumped it into giant bin bags.

Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and Delhi Development Authority (DDA) workers, who had turned up in their hundreds, sprayed the complex with water and acid to remove stench and stains from the facades and the sprawling forecourts.

Smaller alleyways, choking with dirt and dry leaves, were opened up after the three-hour clean-up. The area was divided into 15 zones for the drive.

The complex is home to corporate giants like the Mahindras, Jindal Steel, Punjab National, Jindal South West (JSW), Engineers India Limited (EIL), Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) and PTC.

Key government offices located in the complex belong to the finance ministry, Income Tax department, passport office, Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL), Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), Competition Commission, Central Information Commission (CIC), Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) and the Indian Railways.

Hotel Hyatt Regency occupies pride of the place next to the corporate complex.

Bhargava said her team chose Bhikaji Cama complex because of 'its fantastic location'.

'The objective is to develop a cleanliness model for all the office complexes and commercial spaces in the capital before the Commonwealth Games,' she said.

A former IT professional in the US, Bhargava had earlier, along with her team, purged the Rose Garden opposite the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) of 1,300 kg of litter in January.

'Corporate support for the project has been overwhelming,' said Prableen Sabhaney of FabIndia, the apparel chain that pitched in with manpower and infrastructure for the initiative.

The ICICI Bank sent a team of 200 employees led by their Mumbai-based senior general manager Sachin Khandelwal.

'We are so busy chasing professional targets that we rarely have time to set social targets. The amount of garbage I personally removed in a day was the amount I would create in a month. I would love to see European-style street corner fresco dining facility in a place like the Bhikaji Cama complex,' Khandelwal said.

Sarat Kishor Panda of Jindal Steel, who oversaw the preparations for the campaign since 3.30 a.m., said: 'It is the duty of the occupants of a place to clean up the environs. People have to be counselled against misusing public places.'

Jindal Steel has been trying to clean up the complex for a long time. 'At night, the place is used as a watering hole by idlers and criminals. During the day, people use it as a public toilet in defiance of the rules,' Panda said.

The occupants aside, the clean-up drive was supported by Nasscom, ICICI, FabIndia, Nimbus Harbor, MCD, DDA, SC Johnson, KPMG, Hotel Radisson and several others with working bases in the capital.

Indo Asian News Service