‘Try and find a plastic bag in our town” the MLA of cleanest town in Andhra Pradesh challenges. At Tadipatri you will not see public urination, open defecation or litter, as is common in India; over here, you will only find clean and green roads. Here’s how the local municipality managed it.
The historic Tadipatri town, in Anantapaur district, is plastic free. Open defecation is a thing of past. Shop owners take the responsibility of keeping the road before them clean and litter free. People own trees near their houses and shops, and take care of the saplings planted there. Public urination is long forgotten.
It took nearly ten years for the town to earn the distinction of being the only ‘clean and green “municipality in Andhra Pradesh, in letter and in spirit. This town, located on the banks of River Penna , has achieved many firsts to its credit- an office building that equals any corporate office, underground drainage and a bank balance of Rs 27 crore. At a time, when municipal bodies are struggling even to pay salaries to the employees, Tadiptri is flush with funds.
The local body gained national recognition and awards for being a great success story. Commissioners of other municipalities often come down here to see if they could emulate the model in their towns.
The municipal commissioner Sivarama Krishna says the force behind the feat is local MLA J C Prabhakar Reddy.
Surprisingly, for anybody in the state, the name conjures up images of a rowdy, factionist, goonda and all adjectives associated with blood stained politics of Rayalaseema genre.
– People dared not talk ill of this man who hailed from the JC family with a warlord history.
– Now an MLA, Prabhakar Reddy enforced the discipline among the citizens with his scary image.
– Every citizen, literate and illiterate, is now fully aware of the unwritten code of environmental protection of the town.
– The town’s one lakh population has planted one lakh saplings. Every household has to nurture the sapling like a kid and any damage, other than natural, would attract a fine upto Rs 10,000.
– Recently, a shop was closed for being negligent in taking care of a tree that was found damaged. A fine of Rs 500 was levied. After three days of closure, the shop owner had to remit the money to the municipality to reopen his shop.
A couple of days ago, a team from the Administrative Staff College of India (ASCI) visited the town to study the feat achieved by its municipality. A team from New Delhi also descended on the town to examine the incredible experiment.
How did the MLA create this awareness among the people?
He evolved a unique style and put it to practice. Every day at the crack of the dawn he would go round the town in his Land Rover that would come to screeching halt at any place if garbage was detected on the road. The MLA would then step out of the SUV, and start collecting the garbage and plastic tea cups into a bin before warning them that if the garbage is thrown next day all the shops would be evicted.
The next day he would visit the residential areas and call out the people from houses only to sell a sapling to each and every household at a price fixed by the municipality. He would ensure that it was planted right away. “You are the owner of the sapling since you bought it. You should ensure that it is grown into a tree. Negligence will attract a fine,” Prabhakar Reddy would say.
“ It is difficult to disobey the MLA’s words. So, nobody in this town uses plastic bags. Trees are taken care of as per his orders. There is no open defecation and urination. Despite his factionist image, he is doing good things,” said RS Gupta, a local shopkeeper.
If anybody is seen walking across the road with a plastic carry bag, people immediately figure out he is not a resident of the town and caution him to hide the bag lest he be caught by the MLAs men or municipal workers and be fined.
According to Municipal commissioner, in the recent past, about Rs 6 lakh has been collected as fine from violators.
An attempt to reach out to MLA needed a lot cajoling. Finally, he came on the line stating that he hated press. “You call me rowdy and goonda and factionist. Yes, it’s true I was a rowdy. I lived with bombs and guns. Circumstances forced me to become a rowdy. Did you ever scrutinize why and how I became a rowdy?” he asks.
“That is my past. At 64, I want to make this town the most liveable place in AP. I am doing it, but of course, enforcement needs some force. I am training youth and students in the matters of environment protection. My efforts have yielded results. Go around the town and try to find a plastic bag; you won’t,” he challenged.
The image of a factionist is deep entrenched in the minds of the people of the town. The JC family has been ruling the constituency for over 40 years. A rival to challenge their hegemony is yet to born.