A cooperative heeds the Swach Bharat (Clean India) Call

As one drives into Buldana, one notices, one side of the road is litter free whereas on the other it is strewn across. When I ask Dr. Sukesh Zamwar, Managing Director of Buldana Urban Cooperative Credit Society (BUCCS, http://www.buldanaurban.in) about this, he laughs and responds, “our contract with the city covers only one side; we have put in a tender to cover the entire city.“ More on the tender later.

BUCCS was established in June 1986 at Buldana. It was started by its chairman, Mr. Radheshyam Chandak, with a capital of $200 and 72 members. Today, it boasts a membership base of over 700,000 with deposits to the tune $700 million spread over 360 branches across 7 states in India. Its credit success has been achieved on its, four-pillar system and social banking. The four-pillar system is based on the principle that all the money generated goes into the bank. This means generating deposits by building trust among members, refinancing the money, providing direct finance, and servicing various sectors.  The social banking pillar is based on the premise that, “people’s money should be utilized for the well-being of people.” This translates into-initiatives such as village development, education, health, and other social services.

BUUCS as part of its social initiative took over part of the Buldana city cleaning services from the municipal corporation six months ago. They established a command center headed by an ex-army sergeant to coordinate the battalion of workers. The workers who were with the municipality were shifted as contract workers with BUCCS. Each area of the city was divided and assigned a lady supervisor who headed a group of workers. It is a common sight to see groups of workers dressed in bright orange uniform and gloved hands walking around cleaning the roads and emptying the contents of the many blue and green drums into a tractor. The drums are placed at regular intervals along the main road and in street corners and tractors covered with canvas cart the waste away. The residents are given recyclable bags in which they put their garbage and hand over to the workers visiting their area each day. Mr Deshmukh the head told me, “We have introduced an SMS system where any resident can send us a text about garbage accumulated and to be collected in their area.” The garbage collected is taken to the dump yard where the recyclable items are segregated. BUCCS has planted trees at various intersections in bright colored pots that bring out the local art and crafts.

BUCCS looks at the cleaning of the city not as an activity but a mission – to keep the city clean, change its look, and engage citizens. In the process it has introduced efficient services and product innovations. According to Dr. Zamwar, “roads in India have uneven surfaces, our fogging machine has been indigenously designed to negotiate these. In the next stage we hope to process the waste, we now just dump, into fertilizers. We have started the process to plant trees and provide Buldana a green canopy.”

All the above has been achieved in a span of just six months. Way before the contract term was to end, the city has decided to float a new tender to cover the entire city. While the motivation behind this is not clear, Sukesh is unfazed. “We are going to bid for it and hopefully will be able to build on and continue to improve what we have started to make Buldana a clean, environmentally aware and citizen-engaged city.”

Balu Iyer, balu.iyer@icaroap.coop

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