We do not yet know the truth behind the demise one of the finest IAS officers, D K Ravi. But what we do know is his stellar performance that earned him the wrath of his detractors and the love of the people he worked for.
Kolar city, where he served as deputy commissioner between August 2013 and October 2014, underwent a never-seen-before change. Although his contribution to revenue, land and water departments seems to have been well-recognised, his almost fool-proof solid waste management model he implemented for Kolar is yet to get the recognition it truly deserves, especially by the Bangalore civic authorities who have been struggling to put two-plus-two together.
When a fact-finding team from Solid Waste Management Round Table visited Kolar last November, Ravi was already transferred to Bangalore. We missed an opportunity to discuss with this man in person the genesis of his model which is cost-effective, ecologically sustainable, highly replicable and astonishingly scientific.
A no-contractor, no-middlemen model
According to Assistant Engineer Kotreshappa Benni and Health Inspector Ramesh of Kolar CMC who were part of Ravi’s team, the officer put the onus on the people and demanded a three-way segregation at source. People resisted, refused to segregate. They also fought him tooth and nail when he implemented a blanket ban on plastic bags. Ravi didn’t budge. He threatened to leave the mixed waste uncleared all over the city. In fact, mixed trash did lie rotting in front of shops and hotels for days. A few more days down the line, all the stakeholders realised that they could barely stonewall this man’s single-minded approach to clean up Kolar.
Everyone fell in line. Segregation at source began. Things got moving. And, no sign of contractors or middlemen.
From then on, it’s quite interesting to study how all streams of waste—kitchen, dry waste, sanitary/bio-medical waste and even fallen dry leaves from the roadsides—get treated in the most scientific manner possible. (Please read “Swachh Bharat, clean Kolar” series to understand the processes in detail.)
A humane, scientific & local model
It is beyond doubt that Ravi was well aware of the context he existed in. The myth of achieving efficiency through high-cost and fancy foreign machinery or model was indeed alien to him. On the contrary, he designed a model which was absolutely local by involving the people and the pourakarmikas (PKs). His humane approach becomes evident in the way he put pressure on the bars and restaurants to store glass waste separately to make sure it didn’t hurt the PKs while collecting and transporting.
Very intelligently, he got into an agreement with the clinics and hospitals in Kolar to incinerate hazardous sanitary and bio-medical waste coming out of households. His reasoning: “We clear your wet and dry waste, so you take care of our sanitary waste.”
Biomass back to the soil
This one is fantastic. All the kitchen waste and dry leaves picked up from the roadsides reach open-air composting yards set up in a few specific spots in Kolar. Right after the pick-up, the PKs spread the wet waste evenly on raised platforms and let it sundry. No elaborate composting technique is at work here. Three months later, farmers buy it through auction and take it back to their land.
The best possible model
The fact that Ravi’s Kolar waste management model has received woefully scant attention speaks for the utter inadequacy of the ruling class in understanding the importance of cleanliness and hygiene and the hazards of landfilling. It is yet to move away from its spot-fixing urges, garbage burning and landfill-hunting. The best possible model is right here! All it needs is implementation.
And, as we all know, there lies the rub.
A true eco-warrior
Going by how efficiently and scientifically Ravi designed the model, how he changed the mindsets of the people, the officialdom and the corporates to dispose of the waste generated by nearly 1.5 lakh people, in all fairness, he must be rewarded posthumously for his contribution to the environment.
And the best possible way to do that, especially by the Kolar people, is to keep contributing to the system he designed and nurtured in such a short time and remain an example worth emulating. Any failure would mean the true death of this eco-warrior.