Ripu Daman Bevli, a frontrunner for Cleanliness Movement was named “FIT India Ambassador” by PM Modi for his contribution to the cleanliness drive.
The pioneer of India’s first eco-fitness movement with the mission to make India Litter Free – combining fitness and sport with the garbage crisis – talks about his initiatives, how does he manage cleanliness and fitness drives hand in hand, all about ploggers, challenges, and much more:
From where did the idea of Ploggers of India come in your mind? What is it all about?
Ripu Daman Bevli: In 2016, I started running long distances, and that’s when I saw how at running events there is a blatant misuse of resources and there’s a lot of plastic pollution. Also, I as an individual wanted to make a difference with regards to the littering habit that we as a country as a society have. So it was two-pronged a challenge that I wanted to solve and I decided to create a national movement. I introduced “Run and Cleanup”. As we were running or jogging and picking up litter which was later called “Plogging in Sweden” and that’s how the whole Plogger India concept came into existence. That’s what we have been at it for the last 3+ years now combining “fitness and running to fight the garbage crisis in the country.
Your movement intends to make India litter Free, combining fitness and sport with the garbage crisis. Being a new concept, it must have also brought in a few challenges. What were they?
Ripu Daman Bevli: While there were some cleanup movements happening, there were beach and mountain cleanups, there was also SWACH BHARAT happening for the last couple of years, I believed that we will not be able to clean up our surroundings, our society, and our country by cleaning up. We will have to stop littering. So the focus should be on our littering habits and to cut that down.
When we started out it was a whole new concept because cleaning up or when we are cleaning up outside and it not supposed to be our job, it is supposed to be rag pickers or a sanitation workers job and it is looked down upon. So first, trying to change the mindset of society. , our first message was people who come and clean up your street and your walkways and your parks, they are not “Kachre wala”, or “Safai Wali. Because of society’s misconception and perception, around cleaning up other people’s litter, a lot of people would not join in. So it was hard to get the initial numbers. Moreover, if you are doing it alone, if you get chased by dogs, monkeys. It’s happened to me on multiple occasions. So, these challenges kind of gave me a sense of conviction that we need to build a strong community across the country.
From 2017 till now, what all has changed for you and Ploggers of India?
Ripu Daman Bevli: From 2017 till now, a lot of things have happened, we’ve achieved our primary motive, which was to make cleaning up other people litter the coolest thing in India. Today, when you ask people to come to join in for a clean-up, or a plogging drive, they love doing it and I’ve covered around 80 cities in the last 3+ years and done #trashworkout workshops with 50 schools across the country and that’s been our biggest target audience. The biggest learning that we need to drive this change within the young population, within the children, because they will be the leaders of the change who can drive us in a positive direction.
You have also been given the title “FIT India Ambassador” by PM Modi. What do you feel about it?
Ripu Daman Bevli: Well every recognition of every acknowledgment that we get for our work is great, is a great validation. But, as I said, my biggest validation comes from the regular workshops with kids and school children and the kind of response and enthusiasm they show and the takeaways they have.
Let’s say the plastic upvaas pledge. So these are the things that give me the real motivation and of course, when we make the real change and when the honorable Prime Minister acknowledges the change, the positive change we are making, that’s just is a wonderful moment and I would want to thank the Prime Minister and would love to have his this continues to support and the government support.
What is your view about the cleanliness during and post lockdown period in India? How can cleanliness be made more effective?
Ripu Daman Bevli: Well with the pandemic and lockdown, plastic and packaging and disposable have come back into our lives big time again and all the fight the work we were doing, to beat plastic pollution pre-pandemic/pre-lockdown, has kind of been hampered the work but the fight continues. We need to realize that the pandemic is no excuse to give up our fight against plastic pollution because; I’ll give you an example of surgical masks, now surgical masks, if you use them, they’re not just plastic wastes, they’re also biomedical hazardous waste and when they enter our food chain through the landfills or through the rivers, the ocean when they get dumped in, it will be a major problem. So, and it might lead to another crisis at the end of this one. So let’s shun the surgical masks and instead use a reusable cloth mask that’s a “Plastic Upwas” pledge that we are asking people to take.