Bhaga Singh, a tea vendor from Kumbhalgarh, Rajasthan, exchanges tea and samosas for plastic garbage in order to promote a plastic-free district.
Give us plastic rubbish, sip tea in return, says Bhaga Singh’s tea kiosk near Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajasthan. He has a taraju (balance) at the stand to weigh the plastic rubbish brought in by customers. For example, Bhaga offers a cup of tea in return for a kilogramme of plastic garbage.
Rajsamand district is home to Kumbhalgarh Fort, which features a 36-kilometer long wall that is considered to be the second longest wall after the Great Wall of China. The fort is a World Heritage Site as well as a renowned tourist attraction.
Bhaga resides in Kelwara hamlet, next to the Kumbalgarh Fort, which functions as a tourist market. This has expanded the area’s use of plastic while also creating more rubbish. He claims that rubbish was constantly strewn over the streets, and that unsorted waste was frequently deposited in open locations. As a result, dealing with plastic garbage has become a hazard.
Every month, Kelwara village generated over 2,000 kg of rubbish, with plastic waste accounting for 527 kg of the total monthly waste. Nevertheless, things began to change in December 2022, when the area became the focal point of the G20 Summit.
Officer Bhuvaneshwar was assigned as the district organiser to greet the summit’s tourists and international leaders. As a result, he resolved to take urgent action to clean up the district, launching a plastic-free campaign in Rajsamand.
Bhaga was promoting the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Program at the time. He would not offer tea to anyone who did not have a toilet or who did not use their toilets at home.
He couldn’t study above Class 8 because of his impoverished upbringing and has been selling tea and samosas for the past 12 years. He earns up to Rs 15,000 per month and supports his family of five, which includes a crippled father and sister, his wife, and two children. Despite his challenging circumstances, he has continued to raise social consciousness, first by constructing an open-defecation-free town and now a plastic-free district. He has even established a recovery resource centre in the district to separate dry and moist garbage.
This project was announced last month, ahead of the G20 Summit in December 2022. Ravi Bishnoi, an Indian international cricketer, inaugurated it. Bhaga has gathered up to 50 kilos of plastic debris since its inception.