Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday praised Bilal Dar, an 18-year-old ragpicker who earned his living by picking up waste from the Wular Lake in Bandipora district of north Kashmir.
In Mann Ki Baat, PM Modi congratulated the SMC Srinagar for their initiative for picking him as Brand Ambassador. PM Appreciated Bilal and said he Could serve as an inspiration for others.
Meanwhile Bilal said that I am very much happy that PM Modi Appreciated me and Praising my Work.
Bilals also known as Billa Journey From Ragpicker to Brand Ambassador:is mind blowing –
Up until recently, 15-year-old Bilal Ahmad Dar earned his living by collecting scraps and cleaning up toxic debris and dead animal carcasses from the famous Wular lake in Bandipora district of northern Kashmir.
However, in a remarkable twist of fortune, the teen was appointed as brand ambassador by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) who believed that Bilal could serve as an inspiration for others because even though he came from a disenfranchised background that did not stop him from caring for his environment.
“Bilal is an energetic boy and inspiration for everyone. From a tender age, he earned a living by cleaning the Wular Lake by removing garbage, used bottles and shoes from it. But money wasn’t the only driving force behind his work, he genuinely cares for the environment. We are proud of overall efforts in this regard ,” said SMC Commissioner Shafqat Khan while talking to News Kashmir.
“Wular has been poisoned due to all the trash that floats around in it and tourists who visit this majestic lake felt dejected so I decided to help clean some of the filth from it,” Bilal said.
Bilal took up cleaning of Wular lake from 2012 and earned around Rs. 6000 monthly even though he says, that initially he received no help from the society of the administration in this noble endeavor but is very thankful of Shafqat Khan SMC Commissioner efforts .
“I collected plastic and polythene trash from the lake and sold them. Off course it fetched me some money. But it also helped in cleaning up Wular. Water is life, it has to be clean.,” says the teen who had to forsake his dreams of pursuing an education because his family couldn’t afford the expenses.
“We couldn’t afford at one time Rs. 900,” said Bilal’s sister. Bilal who hails from Laharwarpora village in Bandipora, like so many others struggled for a livelihood in this conflict-ridden paradise and collected plastic trash from the lake which he then sold for Rs. 200 on an average day.
Wular has been poisoned due to all the trash that floats around in it and tourists who visit this majestic lake felt dejected so Bilal decided to help clean some of the filth from it. He deeply cared for the lake and was saddened by all the trash floating in it.
“There are dead animals floating in Wular. Our environment has degraded, there is every chance you will get sick if you drank water from the lake,” Bilal says.
“If I picked 100 plastic bottles it helps keep the water clean. I did earn some money but the Wular gets cleaned in the process.,”. Bilal says with a look of satisfaction, adding that he collects over 14,000 kilos of trash each year from the lake.
Bilal while recollecting hard days says while often collecting trash from the lake from dusk till dawn, but on some days, he failed to sell it. “Somedays I didn’t earn and I had to bear it,”. Bilal’s father Mohammad Ramzan Dar, who also worked as a ragpicker died of cancer in 2003 when he was a studying in Class 6th , forcing the teen to abandon studies and earn a livelihood to support his mother and 14-year-old sister.
“He became breadwinner for us, since his (father’s) death. Bilal never lets me do any hard-work. He abandoned school so that we wouldn’t have to suffer,” Bilal’s mother Mughli Begum (60) said with tearful eyes.
Bilal’s “Wular-cleanup mission” finally caught the eye of authorities and the SMC appointed him as their brand ambassador.
Bilal’s remarkable story caught people’s attention after he was featured in a critically-acclaimed short documentary ‘Saving the Savior – Story of Kid and Wular Lake,” by a Kashmir-based filmmaker maker Jalal-u-Din Baba.
“Credit goes to Bilal in the way he inspired people to care and show concern about their environment. He’s a remarkable human being,” Baba said.
Baba added – “He doesn’t wish to live like dead weight on mother nature like most people do by trashing their environment. He has amazing compassion for nature,”.
Bilal’s story also proves the efficiency of SMC While proving how a Government Department if it acts positively can change our society.