Inspired by Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption, a group of residents in the northern suburb of Ambernath came together in January this year to form a Facebook group, Acticipate. Their focus is to resolve civic issues and act as a mediator between the Ambernath Municipal Corporation (AMC), Railway and other authorities to ensure that necessary action is taken.
Network consultant, Ravi Shankar Vairava (34), who is one of the core members of the group, says, “We wanted to meet outside the virtual world and form a physical forum where even strangers are able to unite to tackle issues.”
They began by lodging complaints about the condition of the roads in the suburb. On Lokshahi Din, which is held on the second Wednesday of every month, citizens are encourage to file their complaints in an open forum and get responses on the spot.
They managed to lodge a record 25 complaints. Over meetings with municipal officials, the group has raised questions on why the budget for road development was not being utilised, littering by hawkers and on raising a Foot Over Bridge (FOB) at the Ambernath station (which they have termed Operation Lifeline). Other issues that have been tackled include rude behaviour of clerks at railway counters, erratic local train schedules and the absence of announcements at the railway station.
“Numerous smaller issues were sorted. But we are still tackling issues such as the FOB construction, which is more complicated as the funds for the same were allocated 1.5 years ago but the work is yet to commence despite several accidents,” he added.
Their actions have also led to the installation of more bins to reduce littering in the locality. “We sought the help of the AMC, involved residents and shopkeepers to tackle the garbage problem. If it works out, we plan to raise awareness about garbage segregation. At present, there is a recycling plant in Ambernath, which doesn’t function. If we segregate the garbage, we can seek for the plant to be re-started and it will benefit all of us.” Come July and Acticipate will undertake a tree plantation drive. They are also focusing on encouraging organic farming in the Ambernath rural hamlets.
Acticipate is made up of working professionals and students (in the age group of 15 to 35 years). They meet on weekends to chalk out strategies at Hutatma Chowk in the suburb. Throughout the week, they keep in touch over the phone and through the Internet. While the core group is made of four people, Acticipate has more than 20 members.
“Public activism forces authorities to take notice. That’s why we attempt to raise awareness about issues, inform people and then, petition the authorities,” states Vairava. He stresses that the group’s focus is not on corruption or politics but on getting basic things sorted, for development. “We co-operate with the authorities without taking recourse to morchas or protests. Being working professionals, we apply management principles to solve civic issues. We hope other suburbs emulate this example,” he reiterates.