When Municipal Corporation of Delhi and a startup came together to clear 300 tonnes of garbage overnight

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Rampal, a Delhi Municipal sanitation worker, complained of not receiving a salary hike "for years" and of unpaid arrears. "Those who were on contracts have not been made permanent for the last 20 years," he told PTI, after a strike by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation was called off on June 12. The workers were protesting the non-payment of salaries third month in a row.

Last weekend was an unusual one for residents of East Delhi. The 10-day long strike by sanitation workers had reduced several areas of the locality into a complete mess. People were complaining of the overpowering stench, and medical shops witnessed a spike in the sale of face masks.

While most of the people saw the huge garbage dump, one startup was looking at solving the problem. Leveraging on Public Private Partnership, the marketplace for services, Urbanclap teamed up with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to assist the authorities in cleaning up the garbage. This is not for the first time that a startup has taken up a social issue and worked towards solving it.

Nirman Vihar (before and after)

During the Nepal earthquake, cloud telephony company Knowlarity had set up a missed call campaign which helps people reach out to their loved ones in Nepal for free. This resulted in more than a million missed calls and thousands of outbound calls. Madrat Games and Goonj were among hundreds of other organizations which contributed as well.

YourStory spoke to Urbanclap Co-founders, Abhiraj Bhal and Varun Khaitan to know more about their campaign and the motive (if any) behind it.

Why pick this problem?

Abhiraj recalls,

On Friday morning I was travelling towards East Delhi for a meeting. I was stuck in the traffic for two hours when I heard an RJ trying to get answers from the AAP government and EDMC Mayor. I noticed three-four foot high dumps of garbage on the road. I thought we startups are trying to provide essential and interesting services to people's homes, and here our city's streets are a dump -- an ugly and stinking sight.

Team Urbanclap huddled for 15 minutes in their office and decided to do something about the garbage. Abhiraj called the Mayor on his cell-phone and got assured of full cooperation from his side. One of UrbanClap’s service professionals had around 10 dump trucks and two JCBs, which were available the same evening. The team was quick to buy gloves, masks, and left for East Delhi by 6 PM on Friday itself.

Swachh East Delhi Campaign

With 10 dumper trucks, the UrbanClap team was out until 5 am cleaning up Mayur Vihar and Nirman Vihar -- the most affected areas. The initiative had the full co-operation of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the Mayor, with representatives from multiple civic authorities coordinating the efforts.

Abhiraj said that the exercise did not cost them a lot of money.

“I kept thinking, if each household could contribute a very small amount of money, we could have avoided the situation getting so messy.”

Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD)and 50 volunteers

According to Abhiraj, though it took a little time to get permission initially, MCD was cooperative. He found the Mayor very approachable. It was equally easy to get clearance from the DCP of East Delhi and the Gazipur dump yard to dump the garbage.

The 75-member UrbanClap team contributed the maximum to make up the 50-member task force for cleaning up. Abhiraj got a chance to speak with an old union leader, someone who was serving EDMC since 1974. He says,

I could fully empathize with his situation. He hated seeing the roads he had cleaned for 40 years dirty, but his men had to withdraw their kids from schools because salaries weren't paid.

Out of his goodwill, he (the old man) supported with a few volunteers and the work began in full swing in no time.

The impact

Mauryavihar after cleaning

With 30+ trips of the 10 trucks to the dump yard where each truck took 10 tonnes of garbage, nearly 300 tonnes of garbage was cleared that night. More importantly, two super affected areas, Nirman Vihar and Mayur Vihar Phase 1, were clean by morning.

To what extent is this a marketing stunt?

Abhiraj says,

We acted because I could not stand the stink and the sight. But overall, the entire activity helped shape UrbanClap as a trusted brand -- as a company which cares for its users, and wants to invest in serving them.

Sanitation workers of EDMC, who had stayed off duty for the last 10 days over non-payment of salaries, called off their strike today after Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the Delhi government released Rs 513 crore towards clearing their dues.

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