GOODBYE PLASTIC, HELLO GOLD!

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Goodbye plastic, hello gold!

Sadiwara, a far-flung village in the Anantnag district has gone completely plastic-free, thanks to its ‘Give Plastic, Take Gold’ campaign started by its sarpanch – Farooq Ahmad Ganaie. And now, the village has inspired many others.

Mian Tufail

SADIWARA, a far-flung area of Jammu and Kashmir in Anantnag district, hasn’t exactly been a privileged village by any standards. It’s suffered all these years owing to the
incompetence of its local leaders. Also, the village is out of bounds from the main district headquarters. But well, finally, despite the indifference towards it, the village has had its share of achievements. And right now, the most talked about feat is this: It has been declared plastic-free, thanks to the latest innovative and pro-people initiatives.
A lot of credit for this feat goes to the village-resident Farooq Ahmad Ganaie, a lawyer by profession and the present sarpanch of the Sadiwara Panchayat. Farooq has come up with an innovative concept to contain solid waste and plastics. Inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s addresses, Farooq had decided to contest a Panchayat election in 2019 under the new administrative set-up of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. And then he won. Talking exclusively to Kashmir Central, Farooq shares how he was taunted and ridiculed by his friends for jumping into the electoral fray. Seeing himself all alone, he decided not to buckle down and remained adamant to work for the welfare of his people. Remembers he: “I decided to fight the elections against the wishes of my well-wishers. I’m a practising lawyer and was earning well. But the condition of my village did not allow us to live a life of dignity – with no potable water, improper drainage facilities and dilapidated roads and schools. In fact, my friends would taunt me for the condition of my village”.
Farooq, in his 60s, was unaware what was in store for him. There was a tough job ahead but well, today, those who boycotted him then, are showering praises for his
‘Give Plastic, Take Gold’ campaign.

This initiative saw a huge response from his village people who participated enthusiastically to make it a huge success. The initiative simply is – for every 20 quintals of polythene waste brought to the Panchayat, the village head offers one gold coin in return. Farooq informs: “Actually, this initiative was the brainchild of my wife with whom I discussed this and she, without any hesitation, supported me and offered two of her gold coins. This is where my motivation came from and the campaign caught a pace thereafter”. Farooq is of the opinion that earlier, electoral politics was confined to just a few sections of the society, but with the implementation of the 73rd and 74th  Constitutional amendments, Jammu and Kashmir saw a new hope rise under the guidance of the central government. And then
“there is no dearth of funds available in the UT exchequer. During the ‘Back To Village’ programme, I presented one hundred demands before the district administration and of those, 98 have already been met and two are in the pipeline and will be fulfilled soon,” he
informs. In recognition of the exemplary work done by Farooq Ahmad, the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor administration has felicitated him with a UT level prestigious award on the National Panchayat Day a few days back. Recognising his commitment towards the people of his Panchayat, the LG said he had personally got very inspired by the work of Farooq Ahmad and wanted that his revolution reach every nook and corner of
the UT and the entire country. He encouraged everyone to submit as much plastic waste to the Panchayat as possible to claim the gold incentive. And lo and behold, within a
fortnight, the whole village was declared plastic-free. Now the District Administration, Anantnag, is planning to spread this initiative throughout the district. Farooq informs they had planned to reward their people on April 30 for their enthusiastic participation but due to inclement weather, had to defer the award function to May 7. With the success of his mission, Farooq Ahmad has decided to infuse more holistic and scientific techniques to segregate the solid waste at its source. Says he,   “Collection of waste is the most crucial in order to preserve our environment and future generations. Later, techniques can be used for a scientific disposal. More than 40 villages have started to replicate this idea in their panchayats”. Indeed, Farooq Ahmad is collecting praises galore for his tireless work to eradicate plastic. Social activist Dr. Raja Muzaffar, praising him, wrote: “Congratulations Advocate Farooq Ganai, Sarpanch, Sadiwara, Anantnag for being felicitated by LG Manoj Sinha ji today during National Panchayat Day. Your work on waste management is incredible. This has to be made a people’s movement”. Social worker and Democratic Azad Party State Secretary Tasleema Akhter congratulates him for his relentless work and describes him as a man with a vision and a mission. Farooq has decided to fight elections yet again in the Panchayat polls this October to help his village tread further on the path of development.

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