Sidharth Runwal is no ordinary teenager. In every other aspect, the seventeen-years old is your regular boy-next-door, studying in class XI, playing with his friends and enjoying ice creams and pizzas. But there is a difference. He takes his responsibilities very seriously, and has already made a difference in the health and hygiene of the city’s vulnerable people at his tender age.
It is this quality that prompted the Bhamla Foundation to award him the Eco Champ Environment Crusader Award on World Environment Day. He was felicitated at a function held at the Amphitheatre, Carter Road, Bandra on Monday.
Sidharth made it his mission to improve the lot of the city’s garbage cleaners. They come from the lowest rungs of society and work and live in almost sub-human conditions. Yet their contribution to the functioning of the city is immense. Keeping the streets of a city of 17-million, most of who have low civic consciousness, is no mean task. Yet our garbage cleaners get very little or no respect, recognition or remuneration for their efforts.
Young Sidharth saw these workers as the champions of ‘Clean India’. He started his own NGO, Clean Up, in 2016. With help from the BMC, Clean Up installed water purifiers at different locations in Bandra. The initiative provided clean drinking water twice a day to over 1200 garbage cleaners and rag pickers. Many of them do not get two square meals in their daily lives.
“Clean drinking water is a basic right of every human being, and these people do not get it,” said Sidharth, when asked what motivated him. “I wanted to help in improving their health and hygiene,” he continued. This was what made Diwali memorable for him.
He is quick to acknowledge Prime Minister Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan as the inspiration for his venture. “I wanted to do something to contribute to the cause, and I got the idea about providing clean water to the garbage cleaners.”
When asked about his future plans, the youngster replied that his immediate objective is to provide clean drinking water to all garbage cleaning workers in Mumbai. Post that he wants to work on ways to replace manual garbage cleaning with automated methods, thereby improving the quality of life for the cleaners. He is certain that with a little support from everyone, he can make a big difference via his NGO – CleanUp.
Bhamla Foundation is a volunteer-driven organisation whose motto is ‘We love India’. It empowers children to improve their lives, their immediate communities and their world to reduce the disparities that exist between privileged and under-privileged children. “Our charter members, in association with the State Ministry of Environment, unanimously chose Sidharth as the most deserving awardee,” said Mr Asif Bhamla, president of the Foundation.