'Ugly Indians' clean up Bangalore

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by The Messiah, Nov 30, 2011.

  1. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

    Aug 25, 2010
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    'Ugly Indians' clean up Bangalore


    The Ugly Indians have a dare for the nation's cities.

    "Show us one Indian city that can boast of one kilometre of clean street - with no open garbage dumps, no missing footpath slabs, no urine stench, no paan (betel leaf) stains on walls? Bangalore, we challenge you, is the only Indian city that now has 4km of streets clean from these four civic ills."

    The Bangaloreans in the Ugly Indians civic group have spent every week of the past year trawling the city's central business district with face masks, gloves, buckets, broomsticks and mops.

    Their mission is to "spot-fix" Bangalore, dirty street by dirty street, and has inspired the confidence to throw their "Ugliness Challenge" at other cities.

    They choose small stretches each week to clean: pavements piled up with plastic, defaced walls, footpaths rendered unusable by potholes.


    The Ugly Indians are mostly professionals in the 25-40 age group and remain strictly anonymous - they respond to media queries only by email.

    The mission began a year ago to "understand the Indian mind and attitude towards cleanliness" and "outwit him/her with clever solutions".

    "We didn't call it spot-fixing at first - that name came up as the cricket spot-fixing scandal (in the UK) broke," says one email from the group.

    At last count, the Ugly Indians had fixed 104 spots - two per week - mostly around Bangalore's central business district, including MG Road, Brigade Road and Church Street.

    The Ugly Indian page on Facebook has short videos that capture the clean-up in specific stretches - starting with people avoiding the area and then showing the Ugly Indians starting their job, the footpaths and walls as they are transformed by bright paint and motifs, and finally people coming back again.

    The Ugly Indians say their operation works like this:

    Members self-select themselves by writing to [email protected]
    Volunteers are not called for - those that write in are filtered
    Equal number of men and women
    Not an NGO - rather it is made up of self-driven and motivated people who come to work and not to socialise

    In fact, the group says most people do not even know each others' names - the work takes place silently.

    Anonymity is a big attraction - many members are fairly senior corporate leaders.

    Also part of the operation are 150 bins, maintained and cleaned by the group and seven free-to-use WonderLoos - ecofriendly waterless toilets.

    A trip to the Ugly Indian Treasure Hunt walk on Church Street as part of the anniversary celebration found the toilets fully ventilated, many of them under the shade of trees.

    Lines of beer drinkers queue to use them at night.

    Inspection test

    The Treasure Hunt was a challenge for anyone to find an ugly spot on the cleaned streets.

    The Facebook page declared that "Bangalore successfully passed the Inspection Test".

    Paan was still being spat, but was largely directed at the bins, and vigilant Ugly Indians immediately painted over stains that hit a wall.

    The work has won the affection of the local constabulary. Basavaraj, a constable at the nearby Cubbon Park police station, said: "These people do first-class work every week. See how clean the road has become. Good people, they don't even give their name."

    One young, Ugly Indian at work told me: "Anonymity is a hugely successful strategy. Labels take away all the good work. Then it becomes so-and-so's movement. Like Kiran Bedi's or Anna Hazare's. We don't want that.

    "We don't want to make a big deal about it. We even refused funding because we don't want people to tell us they want their name or logo on it. We want people to take ownership. Which is why they can help by sharing labour, lending skilled masons, painters. Or by sponsoring bins."

    A local handicrafts shopkeeper, Vishnu Das, also approached me.

    He said: "This entire road that you are seeing had become a urine point, especially for auto-rickshaw drivers. Unbearable smell. But these people cleaned up this place with their hands. I was so surprised why anyone would do that."

    Today the stench has been replaced by a pleasant patch of flowers and a mini-garden, adopted by the famous Bishop Cotton Girls School.

    Nitya and Kirtana, both 22, were among those who had turned up for the Treasure Hunt.

    The law student and her friend, a kindergarten teacher, had been following the Ugly Indians on Facebook.

    Walking along MG Road with Ugly Indians picking up rubbish, the two were all praise for the group.

    "We used to feel terrible on seeing all the muck around. We have even yelled at people who threw stuff out of their car, it just didn't help. As much as it shames us to say this, we wouldn't have done all this cleaning up and on such a scale on our own," says Nitya.

    So how did their parents react to their support for the street-cleaning campaign?

    "They were pretty okay with it, but they asked us to clean our rooms first."

    BBC News - 'Ugly Indians' clean up Bangalore
  3. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    May 25, 2009
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    Holy Hell
    Nice. Other cities need some catching up to do. :D
  4. Dovah

    Dovah Untermensch Moderator

    May 23, 2011
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    This is brilliant.
  5. agentperry

    agentperry Senior Member Senior Member

    Oct 24, 2010
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    one tight slap
  6. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

    Aug 20, 2010
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    Gangtok, Sikkim, India
    Well, I don't want to boast but my home city is much cleaner than most metros put together. However, that is because we are hardly a tenth in population compared to metros and hence more space per person and less crowding or garbaging.

    But yea, this sort of stuff is BADLY needed in India. Not to mention, a few of us wearing masks and getting into municipalities to beat up the officials. Let this be a lesson to local municipalities. Sending a few of them to hospital would send a message. If it can work out for electricity board, I am sure it can work out for cleaning up cities as well.

    लातों के भूत बातों से नहीं मानते ।
  7. Bangalorean

    Bangalorean Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

    Nov 28, 2010
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    ^^ Gangtok was pretty awesome last time I visited it, in the late 90s. Good to hear that it still retains cleanliness!!
  8. Sabir

    Sabir DFI TEAM Senior Member

    Jul 31, 2009
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    This time we booked train tickets for visiting north Sikkim; but cancelled after the earth quake. :(
    It happened just the day before we have to pay the travel agents for car (from NJP ) and hotel booking.
  9. maomao

    maomao Veteran Hunter of Maleecha Senior Member

    Apr 7, 2010
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    Boss, I have been to Gangtok and extreme corners of Sikkim.....It is by far the most clean state in India and people are well mannered and honest too.:)
  10. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

    Aug 25, 2010
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    North east people have better civic sense.

    I went to shillong and it was also clean and people were polite and friendly.

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