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A Wing Commander turns Waste Crusader to make Pune "Swachh"

January 6th , 2019 | Puneet Sharma

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Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan led to our beginning

I am Wing Commander Puneet Sharma a veteran who was commissioned into Airforce on 14 Jun 1989. A former fighter pilot, I have to my credit about 9000 hours of flying experience on various fighter as well as transport aircraft. Presently I am flying for SpiceJet as Captain on Boeing 737 NG

It all started on 02 Oct 2014 with our Honourable PM calling for Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. I knew the success of such an initiative would depend on active participation by all citizens and hence decided to do my bit. In the wee hours of 09 Oct 2014, I left a FB post urging my friends to join me in this endeavour.

Genesis of this approach lies with my years spent in Air Force as the Commanding Officer of an Air NCC unit. I had seen my cadets work hard with dedication and devotion to bring a number of laurels to the unit and to the state of Maharashtra. More than 50 cadets of my unit are presently serving the country in various arms as officers and that is what makes me a proud teacher and mentor.  I knew if I could channelise the energy of the youth, together we would be able to make a difference. 


Visual Change impacted everyone to be part of the movement

We held our first event at Pune railway station on 12 Oct 2014. This was a considered decision. I knew a place like Pune Station will give us an opportunity to leave an impact on greater number of commuters.  Visual change being one of the most impactful requirement for rewiring the brain, we believed that on seeing fellow citizens cleaning their trash, the commuters will be compelled to rethink before littering the place. 

On 19 Oct 2014 the FB page came into being and we started carrying our Sunday story with before and after pictures. We started observing the erring individuals and made efforts to correct them. On the following Sundays we made numerous attempts to sensitise vendors and commuters alike.  We visited all major stations and bus stops.
To attract more youngsters to cause, we decided to add pleasure to business. Sinhgad cleanup was one such event which had all the adventure action and entertainment and this event helped us draw many youngsters to the cause.

Our page on FB started creating a buzz and many CSR initiatives starting following our activities and came forward to support us. In a first activity with corporate support and with permission from the PMC, we conducted a drive to clean up and beautify  paan stained walls. Go green initiative of Cognizant took part in first such event. It did have positive impact, though, unfortunately, lasting for only few months, because our brothers neither stopped eating Paan, nor stopped spitting it out! Undeterred, we revisited the place to give it even better look.


Small groups joined hand for bigger movement

By the third month, we came across quite a few groups that had started action on the same lines in different parts of the city.  Commonality of objective many a times brought us together for this greater cause. A cohesion in various teams came in handy to achieve some mega projects, Magarpatta flyover pillars and Deccan bus stop are the beautiful examples of synergy achieved by coming together of different groups. 

Our efforts which included cleaning hills, parks and canals were much appreciated by our followers on FB.  All cleaning activity at various hills in the city led to sacks full of plastic trash, which we started giving to Ruddra Environmental Solutions for converting into poly fuel. Seeing us, many morning walkers started tagging along to contribute in these activities! This has been one of the most encouraging outcomes.


While working on these projects we decided to take the Swachh message to PMC run schools. The idea was  to engage young kids. The painting of templates gave us an opportunity to give them colourful environment along with a transfer of knowledge about our rich cultural heritage. Their prayer area was painted with pictures of freedom fighters, play area dedicated to sports personalities and washroom area with templates addressing personal health and hygiene issues.


Puneri Abhiman Swachh Pune Nirmaan

The cause today is being supported by many talented individuals. We have dedicated teams of fine art and performing art professionals. A multi pronged approach is being implemented to accelerate the process by creating awareness through flash mobs and street plays. 
Bringing all the NGOs/ social groups together to create mega events for  a meaningful impact across the length and breadth of the city. On
13 Aug 2017 “Puneri Abhiman Swachh Pune Nirmaan” was one such event where nearly 20 NGOs/ social groups tagged along to overhaul the initial target set of 70 events all over the city. Yes, we ended up organising nearly 80 events across the PMC and PCMC limits with more than 1500 volunteers taking part in this mega drive. During which we took up beautification of 7 flyovers and as many  PMC run schools along with spot fixes and cleanliness drives.

In another unique gesture  we chose to felicitate nearly 7000 Swachhworkers of the Pune city, appreciating their efforts in giving us a clean and disease free environment. This was done on 02 Oct 2017 to mark the third anniversary of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. 

Lately our group has started unique campaign in buses, where we welcome passengers on behalf of state transport. We cover the route details and seek passengers' support and their contribution to Swachh Bharat Abhiyan by asking them not to litter the bus and not to throw anything through the windows. 

Along with this we created Pune Mega Canvas where in we took up beautification of a nearly 2 km long wall on new airport road.  It took us five long months to paint the 300 panels carrying social messages. With these drives, we have managed to spread the message of Swachh pune Swachh Bharat.


Learnings & Way Forward

Selfless service by one and all associated with the cause.

Consistency,  patience and perseverance pays.

Two is a team concept led to nil break till now.

Each member of the team has been an inspiration for rest of the team.

Clarity of thoughts and sincerity of purpose gets support from all quarters.

Active public participation on most of the occasions, including spot fixes.  

Many spot fixes were achieved with active participation of PMC ward officers.

Collaborations with CSR initiatives helped meet material resource requirements. 

Not all situations need Govt intervention. Take an analogy of fire breaking out in your house, I am sure no one is going to wait for the govt to come and douse the fire. In the same way,  I wish all of us start reacting to the filth we see around.

To realise the dream of Swachh Bharat WE are important. But it has to start with I. I will Initiate and create India of my dreams. It may or may not happen in my lifetime, but the trees that give us shade on the roadside were planted by unknown Samaritans. Similarly, our work now will create a better India and a better world for our grandchildren.

The author of the story is Founder of Swachh Pune Swachh Bharat initiative and can be reached  on the Facebook page

InwasteR is only a platform to share WaStory and the views and experience are purely of the author.

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