Posted On Friday, June 07, 2013 at 09:18:59 AM
Mumbai: Slum dwellers and rag pickers are generally seen as a threat to cleanliness in the city’s wealthy neighbourhoods. But veteran scriptwriter Salim Khan has struck a partnership with the very same people to preserve the beauty of the seashore along Bandra Bandstand.
For the past few months, the 77-year-old, who lives close to the promenade, has been taking their help to remove heaps of garbage from the one-km coast, including mangroves.
A clean-up squad of around a dozen slum dwellers and rag pickers work thrice a week at Bandstand, earning a livelihood and residents’ goodwill. The result: the once-dirty coast now makes for a stunning view. Impressed by the efforts, 20 residents have joined the initiative, partly funding the workers’ salaries, which until now were being paid by Salim Khan.
“I often take a walk at Bandstand. While the promenade is maintained very well by the Bandra Bandstand Residents’ Trust, the seashore used to be filthy,” Salim Khan said. “It used to be full of garbage and you couldn’t even see the rocks or sand. The mangroves were littered with plastic.”
Apart from the filth, many small hutments along the shore were also ruining Bandstand’s beauty. “I decided that something had to be done. I spoke to local rag pickers and slum dwellers and sought their help to keep the place clean,” said the father of actor Salman Khan.
“Some of them used to beg near the promenade, while others did odd jobs with no fixed source of income. I offered them money and food for working here, and they came on board.” The first time the shore was cleaned, it took three trucks to cart the garbage away.
A layer of plastic can still be seen on the other end of the coast, but it will be cleared soon. While Salim Khan has been working to maintain the shore along Bandstand for the past year, it was only a few months ago that involvement of the city’s poor in clean-up efforts became a regular affair.
“The place is cleaned every two to three days. The reason the drive has been successful is that we did not reduce our efforts after the first day,” said the 77-year-old, who personally monitors the work. “It’s like maintaining your home; you have to do it persistently.”
The veteran film writer — who co-wrote Bollywood blockbusters such as Zanjeer, Deewar, Sholay and Don— plans to extend the drive to other end of the shore. He feels it’s his responsibility to maintain the place. “I have been coming here for a stroll for over 30 years. I have to do my bit for the place.
A part of the shore is free of garbage now and people can enjoy the view of the sea more. I now plan to extend the drive to the other end,” he said. Some 20 residents have joined the initiative and monitor the clean-up every week. “It’s a great initiative.
The dirty coast has been transformed into a beautiful rocky beach. We have put up Salim Khan’s picture on our notice board to encourage others to join the initiative,” said Archana Sharma, president of the Bandra Bandstand ALM.
Suresh Wagri, who is part of the clean-up squad, said that thanks to Salim Khan, he has a proper job now. “I used to be a rag picker and loiter around. I never made steady money and used to trash Bandstand. Now, I earn my livelihood by keeping the place clean,” he said.