There’s a campaign initiated by the government of India, aiming to clean up the country.
While the success of the campaign is debatable, there are some like Tejaswi, a 23 year old
IT professional from Hyderabad who literally get their hands dirty to clean up places in the
country. Tejaswi’s Bhoomi Foundation does something that has been unthinkable so far,
they go to bus stops and other public places, and beautify them, after cleaning them up.
Hailing from a middle class Telugu family from Ongole, Tejaswi started the Bhoomi
Foundation on October 15, 2015; on the occasion of Abdul Kalam’s birthday; after realising
that Ongole was the third most underdeveloped town in Andhra Pradesh. “I was inspired by
the Ugly Indian campaign and in a similar way, I got volunteers and started fixing one spot
every weekend,” says Tejaswi, who used to travel 300+ kilometers every weekend from
Hyderabad to Ongole to do it.
The simplicity of their work is what sets them apart. They don’t use much resources and rely
exclusively on voluntary manpower. Most of their volunteers are students who get down and
dirty scrubbing up and cleaning public places.
Much like the Gandhian quote, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight
you, then you win,” it was a difficult path for her as she faced extensive mockery in her initial
days but now, people actively approach her asking if they can volunteer with her. “Now if
someone dumps any trash at any of the places we’ve cleaned, people nearby stop them
from doing it and inform us immediately,” says Tejaswi, whose continued efforts in cleaning
up 82 spots have led to Ongole being declared a ‘Poster Free City’ by the state government.
After Ongole, the organisation has started fixing spots in Hyderabad.
On being noticed, people started coming to them to ask a lot of questions about
volunteering. “I happily answered the questions because I knew they will then go back and
start making tiny changes in their lives as far as cleanliness is concerned,” explains Tejaswi,
adding, “I want to bring a change in people’s minds about cleanliness. If people get the
sense of responsibility towards maintaining the city in a clean way, it will remain clean
They plan to do it extensively now, with one spot every weekend. “We are looking for more
volunteers as we want to do it every weekend. We might not be able to make a big impact
but we really want to bring whatever little change we can,” she adds.