After 109 Weeks Of Hardwork, Versova Beach Clean-up Gets Suspended As Goons Abuse Volunteers

Remember when we told you about the brave and noble Mumbaikar, Afroz Shah who helmed the responsibility of cleaning up the Versova beach back in 2015? Yes, the same samaritan who created awareness, gathered like-minded volunteers and helped clean over 5 million trash, turning the landscape into a lush coconut lagoon?

If you’re trying hard, let me remind you it is the same program that you have read about in your papers, encouraging more and more people, including children to dedicate a few hours of their Sunday for the noble cause. But alas, and I say this with a heavy heart, the dailies have a different tale to tell.

After 109 weeks of relentless work and efforts, Afroz Shah has been forced to suspend Versova beach clean-up and the reasons will make your blood boil in rage.

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According to Afroz, instead of getting help, his team of volunteers have had to put with a non-compliant administration and goons who abuse them regularly. He took to Twitter and wrote,  

“Week 109 cleanup. Volunteers abused by goons for picking up garbage. Administrative lethargy, non-clearance of picked up garbage and abuses is what we are facing. 

World largest beach cleanup is suspended.Tried my best and I failed. Forgive me my ocean and my country.”

You read that right. If this isn’t worrying then what is?

In an interview with Mumbai Mirror, he has opened up about the entire issue and it is alarming, to say the least. A dejected Afroz said,

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“I have been defeated, despite the fact that I was only trying to do something positive for our country, city, and the environment.”

Explaining further, the city-based lawyer cited it becomes a task when the volunteers are hurled abuses at. However, he maintained that the goons do not appear to be locals. 

“Last Sunday, our group was heckled by a few people at the beach. I don’t know who they are, but this has been going on for a few weeks now. We wake up early on Sunday to clean the beach and have been doing this for 109 weeks. But these goons heckled our volunteers. I tried calling up the police but couldn’t reach them.
I suspect these groups spend Saturday nights drinking on the beach and litter it with alcohol bottles. They obviously find it tough when our volunteers arrive early on Sunday to clean up the stretch. The situation had reached the tipping point on Sunday and I decided that it was enough. I couldn’t take it anymore.
We tried to change people’s mindset and we failed. It’s a personal defeat. The goons who heckle us, for instance. Whoever they are, I feel I couldn’t change their mind set. If we wake up at 7 am on a Sunday to clean up a beach and people still heckle at us, it’s not fair. This cause is much bigger than any NGO, company, or individual. People don’t understand it is a bigger mission.”

 

Talking about the non-cooperation where garbage collected by his volunteers remains piled up near the Kolis’colony, Afroz said,

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“The BMC is taking a lot of time to remove the garbage. If they are saying there is plenty of sand in the garbage we collect, hence the delay, they should segregate it or ask us to do it. Someone will have to do it after all.”

Having said that, Afroz insisted that it isn’t any “Us vs Them battle” but he is pained because it was a personal journey he couldn’t complete.

Wondering if there is some respite? There’s one!

Amidst all, there is one hope though. The suspension is only temporary till the administration promise help with the noble cause. 

“I have only suspended it, not cancelled it. If the police start patrolling the beach at night and early mornings on weekends to keep a check on anti-social elements that drink and gamble there, and the BMC provides us with two trucks on weekends to clear the garbage, of course, we’ll be back. Why will we stop after 109 weeks? I will be back at the beach for the 110th week.”

 

You hear that, Mumbai police and BMC? Don’t we deserve this chance? Doesn’t our environment deserve it more? Something to ponder on.