Cleaning a City
By Sweta Chowdhury
Driven by a strong conviction to affect change, Anirudh Dutt decided take up a social issue that he and his friends could solve. Nineteen-year-old Anirudh developed a pastime not common to teenagers. He would walk the streets of Bengaluru looking for the dirtiest areas in the city with the intent of cleaning them, and changing the way residents treat their neighbourhood.
When asked about what had inspired him to begin his organisation, he said, “I have grown up in an environment where everybody always wanted to leave. Leave the house they grew up in, to move to the suburbs. Leave their town to move to big cities. Leave their country to move outside. I have always, since I was a child, wanted to make where I am, a better place. Make the people I’m with happy. Make the most of who I am in that moment.”
On the July 5, 2013, he organized a small meeting among his friends to develop ideas for making social change. Many were cynical of Anirudh’s proposals but he persisted. He organized his first event at Banashankari 2nd stage, BDA Complex. He and a few friends went with handwritten posters, asking various residents what they felt about the garbage around them. Bengaluru accumulates 3,500 tonnes of garbage every day, and its disposal and management are a growing concern. What started as a weekend activity for Anirudh, eventually led to the founding of Let’s Be The Change (LBTC).
Anirudh’s path was not without hurdles. Getting the BBMP on his side was a Herculean task. In his PU days, as an RJ at a community radio station “Radio Active,” he got in contact with many officials, including one he called “Ramakanth Sir”. This 77 year old man, who Anirudh even lovingly calls his own “grandpa”, helped him immensely to get the BBMPs’ support.
Anirudh motivated the BBMP officials to oversee the cleanup events and also the residents to actively participate in them. This prompted him to think about ‘Cleanathons’. Akin to marathons, citizens would get out of their house, find the nearest black spot, clean it and then jog back home with the same spirit. He even had a “Mega Cleanathon” on October 2, 2017; this event was across 72 wards and had up to 250 volunteers helping in various locations.
The organisation has been thriving ever since its birth in January 2013. It has a network of more than 700 volunteers. It has had over 250 successful events, cleanliness drives, awareness programmes, and spot fixes. Anirudh and his volunteers partners have cleaned up 98 different wards. The group conducts 3 ‘Cleanathons’ every year and has also conducted awareness events in collaboration with various NGOs such as “Precious Paws Foundation” and “Say Trees”.
In 2015, he was awarded “Rising Star of the Year” by the Namma Bengaluru Foundation. Sridhar Pabbisetty, CEO of the Namma Bengaluru Foundation said, “He was able to find a vision to eliminate black spots and at the same time form groups of people to make it scale.” By conducting his own cleanliness drives and collaborating with NGOs, the young founder of “Let’s Be The Change” is helping create a Bengaluru that citizens can be proud of.
If you are inspired by Anirudh Dutt, you can donate below to help him in his efforts to clean up Bengaluru.