Clean Up Ajmer Day of 26 November 2010

Above one of the many newspaper headlines, click on image to see the reports.

Below is a report by Suresh Mathur, a key driver in the impressive My Clean Ajmer Day of 26 November 2010 in Ajmer, Rajasthan (more about Ajmer). It is in three parts plus a outsiders commentary.

·         Preparation for event

·         What happened

·         Analysis of:

26 November 2010

Clean up Ajmer Day went as planned. It was a beautiful morning when the students started streaming into the stadium- 3000 or more- with placards and took their position under the guidance of the P.E. teachers and the organizing team.

A view of the 3000 students taking the oath.

Oath taking.

The District Collector arrived and after my address to the audience (students and adults) in which I explained how it all began-with Remco and Nainital-why schools and school children-our emphasis on appreciative enquiry-take pride in Ajmer OUR city etc. The Collector addressed the students and exhorted everyone to participate with all their heart in the on –going campaign to make Ajmer clean and beautiful. He then led in taking the oath which all present took.

The Collector, Mr. Rajesh Yadav, addressing the students and the assembled guests that included the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and the Chief Executive Officer of the Nagar. The Mayor, Mr. Kamal Bakolia, also addressed the students and exhorting them to work together for a cleaner Ajmer.
The Nigam took the oath to clean and green Ajmer.

Nagar Nigam

The Mayor, Mr. Kamal Bakolia, then addressed the students and while enumerating some initiatives the Nigam was going to take, appealed to everyone to work together with the Nigam to make Ajmer cleaner and greener. He appreciated the ‘My Clean School Ajmer’ effort.


Two girls addressed the rally and told the students what they had done and were doing for cleaning up their area. Priya Rathore from Savitri Balika Vidyalaya in Class 5 said how she had formed a ‘My Clean Group’ in her colony and how she had got her grandfather to get an instrument/tool made so that they could clean the drains themselves! They were going round their colony regularly and picking up litter! The focus was on what students could do themselves.

Inter-Govt. Schools Cleanliness Competition

We had announced an Inter-Govt. Schools Cleanliness Competition between 15 of the bigger Government schools in Ajmer.  The winning school was a Girls school where the girls had themselves white washed the whole school building and even repaired broken class room floors with cement themselves! The lady Principal had used her initiative and got some parents to hire an earth moving machine and cleaned up and leveled the open ground and then planted trees in the school premises! They have won a complete drinking water system worth Rs. 45,000/- sponsored by HDFC bank.

Mr. Jitender Jangid,the Manager of HDFC Bank awarding the first prize to the cleanest Govt. school in Ajmer

The two schools which came next will be given material/equipment which will be of use for the children, decided by the school teachers, the Principal and senior students. These prizes have been sponsored by Toshniwal Industries Pvt. Ltd. and Leelajeet Sikdar Charitable Trust.


From here about 300 students went to the Subhash Park where the Deputy Mayor, Mr.Ajit Singh, supported by many Parshads (Councillers) and the ex Deputy Mayor of the city did a lot of cleaning. The Nagar Nigam men were there to collect all the garbage gathered and take it away. Children were given gloves to wear (sponsored by D.N. Mathur Charitable Trust and snacks post cleaning were sponsored by the LIC team which was managing this cleaning venue.

The Deputy Mayor,Mr. Ajit Singh, Counselors hard at work setting an example by leading the cleaning in Subhash Park.

A hundred students had gone to the Courts to clean the premises. They were led in the cleaning by Mr. Kamal Bakolia, the City Mayor, and by Mr.P.K. Agarwal, the District and Sessions judge. The Bar Association (lawyers) joined in and the President of the Bar Association, Mr.Kishan Gurjar was full of support. The Bar Association provided the snacks for the students.

50 students went to clean the District Education Office premises. They were led by the Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Raj Narain Sharma, of the Nagar Nigam. The venue was managed by Rotary Club who also provided the snacks.

All children who participated in the cleaning were given letters of appreciation when they finished the cleaning.

Mittal Hospital had provided an ambulance to standby during the rally.

While this was going on we had written to about 80 schools to organize cleaning for one hour in their own school premises which should be led by the head of the school. We do not know for sure how many schools did this but we will be contacting them to ascertain.

Girls from Savitri Girls School cleaning the park.

Inter-Ward Cleanliness Competition

Finally, at the Rally it was announced that an Inter-Ward Cleanliness Competition had started from today. The 55 wards (the city is divided into wards by the Nagar Nigam for administrative purposes and there is one elected Councilor from each ward) of the City would be judged in mid December and Rotary Club would give cash prizes to the first 3 wards.


We are now going to get into small groups and start going into selected schools to motivate the staff and the students to suggest projects they want to take up and provide whatever support we can.

Media coverage

The Media-local newspapers and cable TV have been wonderfully supportive and have given extensive coverage. Click on the images below to see full size. Note the long list of names and addresses of Nagar Nigam personnel (by ward) responsible for keeping Ajmer clean and their phone numbers that were published in the local media.


Preparation for event.

Media involvement

Held a Press Conference today chaired by the Mayor in the Nagar Nigam hall. Well attended by the local media and which is already being being presented in the local cable channels.


50,000 'Sankalps ' have beeen sent to students of nearly 80 Govt. and Non Govt. schools with a covering letter from the District Education Officer supporting the activity and advising schools to give full support.
These Sankalps will go to the parents of the 50 000 students who will send their acknowledgement to the school. The printing of the 'Sankalps' was sponsored by the Common Cause Society, Ajmer.

Clean up of School

We have asked the Heads of the 80 schools to give one full hour for a special clean up of the school on the 26th-'Clean Up Ajmer Day'and the Head down to the youngest child and the school peon should participate. This should become a regular activity of the school.

Awards for best maintained school

We have organised a competition for the best maintained school from among 15 of the biggest Govt. Schools in th e city.HDFC Bank has sponsored the first prize- a purified and cooled drinking water system worth Rs. 45,000/- for the students of the school. Two consolation prizes worth Rs. 10,000/- each will be awarded to the 2nd and 3rd school. We have put together a team which will visit the 15 schools for judging.The awards will be given at the stadium on the 26th by the Collector.


On the 26th 3000 students from over 30 schools will assemble in the main stadium in Ajmer(this includes 25 children from the school for the physically challenged also!) to take a pledge led by the Collector who will be the Chief Guest. From the stadium 200 students from various schools will go to Subhash Garden, the largest public park in the city,for actual cleaning.They will be supervised by a team from the LIC and will have the full support of the Nagar Nigam who will provide additional man power for removing the garbage collected. The Mayor will lead the cleaning.We are providing gloves to the children, the Nigam, garbage collecting bags,and the LIC workers snacks and a drink.

Another 100 will go the Courts premises for cleaning the place. The District Judge  in charge there has promised to come out with the students and we hope to get the Divisional Commissioner to be there too to clean with the students. The Bar Association will provide snacks for the students and ,as for the  park, children will get gloves and bags and back up by the Nagar Nigam work force. The Managing team is made up of some professors and senior students from a local college.

50 students from 2 schools will go to clean the premises of the DEO's office. The Rotary Club is managing this site and will also provide the snacks. Again, workers from the Nagar Nigam will be there to provide support.

Checking each week

So that these areas remain clean later too, one school each has been appointed to check the areas every week subsequently and the students will ring the CEO at the Nagar Nigam directly if the place is not being maintained as it should be

What didn’t work so well.

·         The Nagar Nigam input was delayed due to officers not being available as expected.

·         Date of ‘Clean Up Ajmer Day’ clashed with the marriage season and Pushkar fair so many people unavailabe.

·         No audit of schools participation due to absence of responsible person.

·         Some Committee members expressing concerned about taking on too much.

·         Time consuming Hindi typing done at typing shops.

·         Inadequate planning by sub-groups responsible for cleaning that hindered overall performance.

·         More sensitivity to requirements of political groups.

What did work.

·         Members of core team are influential businessmen and members of the Rotary Club which helped their participation.

·         Member of team provided centrally located office space and services (backup, typing, photo-copying, couriering etc. etc.).

·         Key person (Suresh Mathur) having been a teacher helped to communicate with students.

·         Knowing a number of Heads of schools in Ajmer.

·         A reputation (eg. project to save the lakes) facilitated backing from the Administration

·         The Nagar Nigam already seeking a Public-Private Partnership in the concept of My Clean.

Suresh Mathur, Secretary and Founder My Clean School Ajmer Society, addressing the gathering at Patel Stadium.

29 November 2010

Commentary by Remco

 We are in many respects, pioneers and as pioneers there are valuable lessons.

Publicity and sponsors.

A great strength of My Clean is the ability to raise sponsors who are guaranteed favourable publicity and general awareness of their contributions. Note how Ajmer's program attracted many prizes including a valuable water drinking system donated by the HDFC Bank. Sponsorship is a powerful facility available to My Clean teams and can help the effectiveness of your events and promote wider participation.


Ajmer is building community by invitation to participate and not so much by making requests. Broadly if you’re not invited (especially by the students) you haven’t got enrolment into the concept and are not creating something sustainable. So for example, the sankalp (oath) works really well, but again there has to be enrolment (eg. extending oneself to be more confident) By the way, sankalps can be sponsored. A driver is that being in action is empowerment where eg. the students feel like they are beginning to practice being an adult, to be more confident and enrolling and by that to build community spirit. Cleanliness is a symptom of community.

Media coverage

Ajmer used the media really well, including the electronic media who like to be behind something worthwhile in their market, ie. the community. Given the value good publicity can represent for you and your team you may consider writing a press release (especially also electronically). Remember that the media unfortunately appears to be involved more with the negatives than the good things so while a good ally, handle with care. Develop friends and nurture them with electronic information as they can amplify whatever you are doing (but again, not just positively).


Community clean ups are valuable community builders.  Two issues.

·         How to enrol the people, especially the students.  Ask what’s in it for them especially the students? Here you can explore empowerment opportunities by them doing things they wouldn’t normally do.

·         An important issue is ownership and this is where the My Clean team in Ajmer promoted periodic audits of cleanliness that the students are undertaking.

·         Teachers can push students to cleaning, but without enrolment, is unlikely to be sustainable and one risk the students reacting and doing the opposite outside the school grounds.



Note how the My Clean Team in Ajmer introduced some competitiveness between schools. Sometimes competitiveness can be undermining but it also taps into an innate motivation of rivalry and so delicately handled, it can work. Note poster competitions are easy to arrange but in the end, it produces only paper capturing the (frustrated) passion of students.


In Ajmer acknowledgment certificates were used. There are many opportunities for plaques (eg on streets, schools, buildings and businesses), and other awards.  Acknowledgement is a key aspect of My Clean – promoting the champions. Acknowledgement serves to nurture the seeds of change being those already making a difference and creating awareness of them, will inspire others.

Appreciative Inquiry

The temptation is to fix things but all this does is to fix the symptoms leaving the cause (community indifference) to remain. Appreciative Inquiry promotes the looking at the good things and building on that – a bit like nurturing the seeds. There is therefore a Step 2 opportunity for Ajmer to promote activities such as cleanest street awards or acknowledging responsible business with sponsorship and media publicity.

Team building

Here Suresh formed teams of people and created the conditions to not be at the centre which is vital to create a sustainable network represented by My Clean School Ajmer. He created a Society to handle the sponsorship money and importantly, kept it in the shadows. This was not a My Clean School Ajmer event, it was a community event.. When asked how they, including by students how they could join, Suresh responded in effect of “How can we join you? The team in Ajmer were senior people who acted as the wind beneath their wings.  Note his concluding comments….” We are now going to get into small groups and start going into selected schools to motivate the staff and the students to suggest projects they want to take up and provide whatever support we can.” We can share project and initiatives, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the community, the students who need to own them.


Here again the building of teams helps create a sustainable movement but without enrolment of the target community, it will fade. Enrolment is a skill and requires thinking in terms of them, not you or your team no matter how meritorious your idea might be. Even an activity that is clearly in the public interest will fail without their enrolment which means that they must see it as a worthwhile opportunity for themselves. So in the case of schools the teachers and students could see what you are promoting as just another demand on their already stretched time and the municipalities may perceive job losses for their sweepers by the cleaning activities that you are promoting. Carefully consider your project as not everyone is enrolled by public interest causes – there has to be something in it for them.

In the broad one has to create outcomes which:

·         Do not depend on you. This means building teams and having them manage. Note for example that Suresh, initiator of My Clean School Ajmer, has the role of secretary of the Society he formed, and not president.

·         Are sustainable.  This means defining programs for on-going activities driven by people other than oneself. Note how the Ajmer team has created agreement with the students to evaluate the cleanliness of an area.

·         Is not primarily a fix-it or a focus on problems. The temptation is to promote a focus on cleanliness (or its absence) without regarding them as opportunities for building community spirit.  It is worth talking with the dignitaries to encourage them not to compel or request on one’s duty. There are many opportunities for people and groups to be acknowledged and rewarded. Encourage therefore the thinking around opportunities and not about problems which are only symptoms and will reoccur.

·         Encourage students to be in action and especially, by interaction with people other than themselves. Even marches with banners is a contribution, students will achieve far more satisfaction having practised leadership by interacting with the community such as the taking of sankalps, surveys, promoting shifts in attitude and a host of what is for some may not be so comfortable.