City Pulse

They sat vigil for five nights to get their voices heard

May 08, 2015 By Team ICMYC
  • The three change makers, Devika Reddy, Devika Ramesh Babu and Manjula Pillappa.

  • Together they contributed Rs 20,000 to construct a cement stage.

  • From garbage dump to a cement stage.

  • Karnataka flag being hoisted.

  • The stage proved to be a deterrent for those trying to dispose of their garbage.

Any act of active citizenship is an example of grit and determination. Devika Reddy, Devika Ramesh Babu and Manjula Pillapa’s fight for a cleaner Jogupalya shows not only their determination but also unwavering perseverance. These three change makers sat vigil next to an empty plot of land, that was being used as a makeshift garbage dump yard by residents, for six days and five nights! Their fight finally culminated into construction of a cement stage, that is now being used for community purposes. 

The densely populated neighborhood (ward no.89) is spotted with narrow lanes and closely packed homes. The area is, like many other localities, a victim of poor garbage disposal system. The residents usually end up using an empty plot of land, next to some houses, to throw their garbage. The BBMP clears the trash once in three days, stinking up the place in the process.

“Last Sunday, I visited my friend whose house is located next to the garbage dump. The stench was unbearable. We decided we had enough and sought an audience with the Corporator to complain about the issue,” explains Devika Reddy.  She, along with Devika Ramesh and Manjula met Corporator Gautham. Sympathizing with the complainants, the Corporator however, also pointed out that every time the BBMP would clean the plot of land, residents would dirty it up again. The trio persuaded him to get the area cleaned again, and assured him that the area will not be dirtied again.  

A unique protest:

On Sunday, the Corporator got the area clean. True to their promise, the three women sat vigil, not letting any resident throw their trash there. They sat vigil through the night as well. “We knew if we moved, someone would definitely throw a bag full of rotting vegetables,” added 45-year-old Manjula.Not just Sunday night, the three brave women sat vigil for the next six days and five nights! “Between the three us we would divide our time. If one goes to take bath, or take meal breaks, the other two would take guard. The spot was never left empty,” says Devika Babu.

The trio had to fight not just tired limbs, sleeplessness, and mosquitoes but also the insensitivity of their neighbours.  “Initially, when the news of us siting vigil got around, many mocked us. Some said we won’t last for more than two hours,” says Manjula. The aggressive behavior of some residents compounded the problem. “An old lady visited the spot to throw garbage. I stopped her and she got angry with me. She shouted at me, and rudely said the plot wasn’t my father’s property. But it isn’t her property either, isn’t it. Doesn’t she, and others, realize that this fight is for them as well,” says 44-year-old Devika Reddy. 

Devika Reddy adds that their only support was their family members. “Nobody offered us coffee or tea. There’s been no cooking in my house for the past week. We have been ordering food from the local hotels. My daughter is alone at home, as my husband has gone to Chennai on a business trip. And, I am here fighting for a cleaner neighbourhood,\" she says. However, the change makers realised that sitting vigil is not going to translate into a sustainable solution. They decided to construct a cement stage in a bid to discourage people from throwing their trash.

From garbage dump to a stage:

“Together, we collected about Rs 20,000 and asked a contractor to construct a cement stage. This could be used for community functions. We also decided to install a bust of a famous person, along with Karnataka flag. There could be no greater deterrent for those wanting to dirty the place,” says Devika Ramesh Babu.  

After a week of struggle, the active citizens managed to get a stage erected. “Today, it feels nice to know that our struggle helped make our neighbourhood a cleaner place,” says a beaming Manjula.

May the tribe of such active citizens increase.