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“The BagitChallenge- school kids ensuring swatch bharat”

Akshat Prakash

As I watched the local river die a new death  each day, as mounds of garbage piled up, something hurt me deep inside. The ‘blue’ in the river, once the fabled lifeline of Ghaziabad, seemed to have surrendered to a permanent veil of ‘black’, which only thickened each passing day. Was it just the river that was losing its soul, or was it a collective conscience in decay. Someone had to start, to make the dirt go away. Someone had to bag it! Some say it takes a lot of courage to change the world. A bunch of school kids dared to believe that all they needed was a few masks, gloves, boots, shovels, goggles and.. “the BagitChallenge”, supported by our Alma Mater, Delhi Public School Indirapuram, Ghaziabad. The BagitChallenge is a celebration of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.

The genesis of the initiative lay in the hurt I felt at the increasing environmental abuse I witnessed  at the hands of mankind, me included. Energizing schools to participate in Swachh Bharat Mission had the potential of creating a lasting movement which could promote cleanliness beyond mere words and ingrain a sense of cleanliness in the very DNA of children at a young age, thereby bringing up the next generation with a fundamentally different ‘zero tolerance to litter’ mindset.

Having heard of the success of the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, I decided to bring together the objective of creating a cleaner society with the competitive spirit of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to create a movement which could spread from school to school, leaving natural adopters of Swachh Bharat and evangelists of cleanliness in its trail. With a strong urge to see the surroundings clean I conceptualized “BagitChallenge” as a school-to-school challenge in which each school will adopt an area, clean it up, collect garbage bags and dare three other schools to beat its collected “Bag Tally”. By the end of the contest the school with the highest tally will be titled the ‘King Baggers 2015’. The concept was innovative and different but creating a self sustaining movement was difficult, not just because of the sheer effort involved but more so because the question was - Could a group of school kids really teach the society how to clean it up, how to bagit?

My first validation of the concept came from my principal, Mrs Meeta Rai, who has been a source of great inspiration for me personally. She has created an environment of excellence in school, which I strongly believe encourages creative thinking and a desire to change the world amongst students.

The “BagitChallenge” got its first flight of fantasy when our school, was invited to present views on the New Education policy to the H’ble Union HRD Minister, Smt. Smriti Irani in December 2014. A Vice-Head Boy of the school then, I was nominated as part of our school team to participate in discussions with the minister. During the open discussions with the minister, I briefed her on the concept. The appreciation and encouragement I received from the minister lent me wings to pursue the dream.  While the idea was innovative, I soon realized that mere conceptualization was less than half the distance covered. There were miles to go and promises to keep.

Creating a belief in the idea, building a strong support system and a dedicated team were critical to the success of the challenge.  Always supportive of student initiatives, my school, stood by me and provided a platform to launch the mission. Considering that the idea was unconventional, the belief that our principal had in the concept became the backbone of my journey to build a team and generate momentum. If conceptualizing the BagitChallenge was a ‘Eureka’ moment for me, building a collaborative success with my school team was a proud journey in leadership development for me, personally. With the concept finalized, I created a website, www. thebagitchallenge.org and Facebook page www.facebook.com/thebagitchallenge) to invite schools to join the movement.

We launched the first cleanup drive in Sept 2015, supported by the school, our coordinating teacher Ms Neelam Gautam along with my School Council Team. The team adopted Jaipuria Market in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad. A team was born; a movement took shape – with a few school kids, a handful of gloves, shovels, garbage bags and brooms! The team cleaned up the area and collected 18 large black garbage bags. This team of school students not only cleaned the area but also left behind a powerful message to the local residents and shop owners that, as I say, “each one of us should bend to pick our own garbage.”

My team has invited 18 schools so far to take up the challenge, including schools in Sahodaya Group, Ghaziabad Chapter such as Cambridge School Indirapuram, DPS Ghaziabad, Uttam School for Girls, Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Silverline Public School, GD Goenka Public School, DLF Public School and more. What started with an individual’s dream, a one school initiative, will surely spread across India. As I met with Ghaziabad’s Member of Parliament and H’ble Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen (Retd) V. K. Singh to present the initiative, he applauded our efforts.

The BagitChallenge’s efforts reached a tipping point when I got an opportunity to present the concept to the Mission Director of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. The Mission Directorate immediately understood the power of this concept and lauded our efforts. The Mission Directorate has now proposed to integrate the “BagitChallenge” within the official Swachh Bharat activities to help take it to schools across India. While on one hand this is a great recognition of an initiative that started small, it also creates a platform to make an impactful change across the country and prompt more and more schools to join the initiative. We are extremely excited at this development and believe that with Government’s support, the bagit challng (the twitter handle) can truly reach its desired destination. I feel truly blessed to have parents, principal, teachers and a supportive team who believed in me and lent their extremely encouraging support. The BagitChallenge has received widespread coverage in leading newspapers and on FM Radio. The BagitChallenge story was also covered on portals. NewsBytes, a mobile app based news streaming startup also reported the team’s efforts through its news mobile application. The story was covered by leading News television channels. While this has been a matter of great honor for both, me and my team, at a more exciting level it has lent us a medium to evangelize the concept even further. In support of the initiative, we are truly thankful that the School has offered to run the challenge year after year, supported by each year’s Student Council members. As we prepare to graduate from the school, we will leave behind the BagitChallenge in the safe hands of the future generations of who, with government’s support, will be able to bring a lasting change to India.

I have come to realize that a thin line divides hope and success – those who dare to cross it with a belief turn their dreams to reality. Ultimately, change has to start from somewhere; let’s come forward to be the change we wish to see. We dared to think differently, and together we made a difference. You too can, Come join us!

 

(The author  Akshat Prakash, is a Class 12 student of Delhi Public School, Indirapuram Ghaziabad (UP).“The BagitChallenge- school kids ensuring swatch bharat”

Akshat Prakash

As I watched the local river die a new death  each day, as mounds of garbage piled up, something hurt me deep inside. The ‘blue’ in the river, once the fabled lifeline of Ghaziabad, seemed to have surrendered to a permanent veil of ‘black’, which only thickened each passing day. Was it just the river that was losing its soul, or was it a collective conscience in decay. Someone had to start, to make the dirt go away. Someone had to bag it! Some say it takes a lot of courage to change the world. A bunch of school kids dared to believe that all they needed was a few masks, gloves, boots, shovels, goggles and.. “the BagitChallenge”, supported by our Alma Mater, Delhi Public School Indirapuram, Ghaziabad. The BagitChallenge is a celebration of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.

The genesis of the initiative lay in the hurt I felt at the increasing environmental abuse I witnessed  at the hands of mankind, me included. Energizing schools to participate in Swachh Bharat Mission had the potential of creating a lasting movement which could promote cleanliness beyond mere words and ingrain a sense of cleanliness in the very DNA of children at a young age, thereby bringing up the next generation with a fundamentally different ‘zero tolerance to litter’ mindset.

Having heard of the success of the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, I decided to bring together the objective of creating a cleaner society with the competitive spirit of the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to create a movement which could spread from school to school, leaving natural adopters of Swachh Bharat and evangelists of cleanliness in its trail. With a strong urge to see the surroundings clean I conceptualized “BagitChallenge” as a school-to-school challenge in which each school will adopt an area, clean it up, collect garbage bags and dare three other schools to beat its collected “Bag Tally”. By the end of the contest the school with the highest tally will be titled the ‘King Baggers 2015’. The concept was innovative and different but creating a self sustaining movement was difficult, not just because of the sheer effort involved but more so because the question was - Could a group of school kids really teach the society how to clean it up, how to bagit?

My first validation of the concept came from my principal, Mrs Meeta Rai, who has been a source of great inspiration for me personally. She has created an environment of excellence in school, which I strongly believe encourages creative thinking and a desire to change the world amongst students.

The “BagitChallenge” got its first flight of fantasy when our school, was invited to present views on the New Education policy to the H’ble Union HRD Minister, Smt. Smriti Irani in December 2014. A Vice-Head Boy of the school then, I was nominated as part of our school team to participate in discussions with the minister. During the open discussions with the minister, I briefed her on the concept. The appreciation and encouragement I received from the minister lent me wings to pursue the dream.  While the idea was innovative, I soon realized that mere conceptualization was less than half the distance covered. There were miles to go and promises to keep.

Creating a belief in the idea, building a strong support system and a dedicated team were critical to the success of the challenge.  Always supportive of student initiatives, my school, stood by me and provided a platform to launch the mission. Considering that the idea was unconventional, the belief that our principal had in the concept became the backbone of my journey to build a team and generate momentum. If conceptualizing the BagitChallenge was a ‘Eureka’ moment for me, building a collaborative success with my school team was a proud journey in leadership development for me, personally. With the concept finalized, I created a website, www. thebagitchallenge.org and Facebook page www.facebook.com/thebagitchallenge) to invite schools to join the movement.

We launched the first cleanup drive in Sept 2015, supported by the school, our coordinating teacher Ms Neelam Gautam along with my School Council Team. The team adopted Jaipuria Market in Indirapuram, Ghaziabad. A team was born; a movement took shape – with a few school kids, a handful of gloves, shovels, garbage bags and brooms! The team cleaned up the area and collected 18 large black garbage bags. This team of school students not only cleaned the area but also left behind a powerful message to the local residents and shop owners that, as I say, “each one of us should bend to pick our own garbage.”

My team has invited 18 schools so far to take up the challenge, including schools in Sahodaya Group, Ghaziabad Chapter such as Cambridge School Indirapuram, DPS Ghaziabad, Uttam School for Girls, Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Silverline Public School, GD Goenka Public School, DLF Public School and more. What started with an individual’s dream, a one school initiative, will surely spread across India. As I met with Ghaziabad’s Member of Parliament and H’ble Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen (Retd) V. K. Singh to present the initiative, he applauded our efforts.

The BagitChallenge’s efforts reached a tipping point when I got an opportunity to present the concept to the Mission Director of Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan. The Mission Directorate immediately understood the power of this concept and lauded our efforts. The Mission Directorate has now proposed to integrate the “BagitChallenge” within the official Swachh Bharat activities to help take it to schools across India. While on one hand this is a great recognition of an initiative that started small, it also creates a platform to make an impactful change across the country and prompt more and more schools to join the initiative. We are extremely excited at this development and believe that with Government’s support, the bagit challng (the twitter handle) can truly reach its desired destination. I feel truly blessed to have parents, principal, teachers and a supportive team who believed in me and lent their extremely encouraging support. The BagitChallenge has received widespread coverage in leading newspapers and on FM Radio. The BagitChallenge story was also covered on portals. NewsBytes, a mobile app based news streaming startup also reported the team’s efforts through its news mobile application. The story was covered by leading News television channels. While this has been a matter of great honor for both, me and my team, at a more exciting level it has lent us a medium to evangelize the concept even further. In support of the initiative, we are truly thankful that the School has offered to run the challenge year after year, supported by each year’s Student Council members. As we prepare to graduate from the school, we will leave behind the BagitChallenge in the safe hands of the future generations of who, with government’s support, will be able to bring a lasting change to India.

I have come to realize that a thin line divides hope and success – those who dare to cross it with a belief turn their dreams to reality. Ultimately, change has to start from somewhere; let’s come forward to be the change we wish to see. We dared to think differently, and together we made a difference. You too can, Come join us!

(The author  Akshat Prakash, is a Class 12 student of Delhi Public School, Indirapuram Ghaziabad (UP).