About two weeks back I posted a few pictures in this blog labeled ‘Ponda scenes on a winter morning’. One of them was the temple of goddess ‘Sateri’ near my house, decked up for the annual ‘Jatra’. Thousands of people visited the temple seeking goddess Sateri’s blessings. Dozens of temporary stalls selling this and that but mainly eatables, had come up and the devotees gorged themselves on ‘Khaje’ (a traditional Jatra sweet made with gram flour and jaggery - in the form of pencil thick sticks), laddoos, ‘bhaji’, gobi manchurian (Bombay special Manchurian, Lucknow special Manchurian and Agra special Manchurian - to name a few) and ice cream.
The Jatra concluded. Temple committee was happy that they held a successful jatra (and got some money for the temple). Devotees were happy that they got special blessings from the goddess (along with special Manchurian). Stall owners were happy that the devotees blessed them with business. All of them left after a week, leaving behind heaps of trash for people like me to feast our eyes upon during our morning walks. I usually avoid going there during Jatra time and when I went for a walk after the jatra, I felt like crying. I am sure that goddess Sateri would have cried too - had she seen the trash around her temple. But she had been locked up after the Jatra and she remained inside safe.
This was nothing new. I witness this every year. The trash remains there for months, some of the degradable materials rot and other things (plastic trash)spread themselves all over and get washed into the neighbouring ‘nullah’ during rains. The place appears clean for a few months and then it is the time for the next Jatra. Life goes on amidst trash. Both ours and the goddess’s.
This time I decided that I will do something about it. I managed to trace a member of the temple committee and asked him what the committee is going to do about the trash?
“We have nothing to do. We have arranged to clean inside the temple and the surroundings is the job of the Village Panchayat. They have given license for the stalls and collected the fee.”
I met the Sarpanch of the Curti panchayat.
“At the time of giving license we instruct the stall owners that they should keep the area clean. If they don’t follow our instructions what can we do? We have no manpower to clean all that trash. Actually the temple committee should take care of cleanliness”.
I suggested to the committee that if some of them could volunteer and come forward to clean up the area, I would join them with my friends. He said that he would talk to others. The next evening I called him up. “Doctor, you can go ahead and clean up. We have no objection!”. (No objection!- the cheek!)
I decided to put the matter for discussion before our group “People Of Ponda.”
This ‘People Of Ponda’, POP for short, is a body of like minded citizens of Ponda who want their city to be a better living place and who are willing to do something about it. (my son calls it the ‘Kachara committee’). We meet once a week to plan and try to do our best to achieve our objective. After an enthusiastic and lively discussion that evening, our group decided that,
1. We will clean up the surroundings of the Sateri temple, ourselves and inform the temple committee and the Panchayat about it and urge them to see that a clean Jatra is held in future. (We hoped that if these two bodies have any sense of shame they would take notice.)
2. We will meet the committee members of other temples around Ponda city and the respective Panchayats where the annual Jatras are due, inform them about the Sateri experience and urge them to take initiatives to see that the Jatra does not end up turning the temple surroundings into garbage dumps.
3. We will inform the ‘directorate of panchayats’ about this and request the director to use his office to make the Panchayats do what they are expected to do.
3. We will Write to /meet the Governor of Goa who happens to be the state coordinator for the ‘Swaccha Bharat Abhiyaan’ and inform her that unless the bodies like these ‘Temple committee’ and the ‘Panchayat’ are woken up, our PM’s ‘Swachcha Bharat’ campaign is only going to be in his speeches, on the TV screens and News papers.
The following are the pictures of members of POP putting the first stage of their thoughts into action. We plan to follow it up as planned. I can’t assure that we would do it, but if the enthusiasm of our group during the first stage is any indication, we certainly would. I very much appreciate the Swachcha Bharat (Clean India - in the literal sense) initiative of our PM. Nice to see a PM who could say "pehle shouchalay - Baadme devaalay". I only hope that this initiative does not end up just as a slogan like everything else. This post is to urge all those who have had the patience to read this to leave aside sceptisism and do what they can, however little/inconsequential it may seem. Who knows? 'Swachch Bharat' may work after all! Even if it doesn't, at least you will feel nice about what you did - just like we did on this Wednesday morning.
|Trash around the temple - tip of the iceberg|
|and by the road side|
|More trash by the road side|
|Cleaning begins early in the morning in semidarkness|
|It was real work. Not just posing with the 'jhaadu' on clean roads like our celebrities|
|I could even enthuse my son, for whom the morning was still three hours away.|
|Roadside halfway through|
|Cleared of trash|
|Area around the temple - as it should be.|
|Our group POP - and evidence of a work well done!|