A retired colonel uses Facebook for a clean city

New Delhi: Facebook has turned into a useful tool in the hands of a 78-year-old retired army colonel to clean up Delhi’s walls. Shivraj Kumar is using the social networking site, so popular among the young, to reach out to people and help rid the metropolis of ugly posters that deface and often disfigure public edifices and street furniture.

A few months after Shivraj Kumar started his ‘Poster Hatao’ campaign in the national capital in August 2009, he created a Facebook profile to engage with residents of Delhi directly.

“There are crores of useless posters everywhere, and through this campaign we have managed to remove many half-peeled and soggy posters defacing public walls. I wanted to use the medium of social networking to spread the movement,” Shivraj Kumar, founder secretary of Munirka Vihar said.

“Many people have approached me since I created the Facebook profile of the campaign. The campaign has seen some young energy,” he said.

The campaign has garnered around 207 supporters on Facebook.

The retired armyman ensures that one of his family members daily checks the account and maintains interaction with Facebook supporters.

People use the Facebook forum to inform about the situation of their area. They post encouraging notes on the wall and appreciate the efforts of the campaign.

With the support of his wife Laxmi, 73, and through his network with residents welfare associations and Bhagidari, the Delhi government’s residents partnership initiative, he is getting support from Delhiites.

“People from all age groups are joining in to remove unwanted posters and make Delhi poster-free. And this has been helpful through intense campaigning,” Shivraj Kumar added.

Shivraj Kumar held the first community project in west Delhi’s Punjabi Bagh, in June where the veteran was assisted by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and area residents.

Even as he continues efforts to take the movement to the bylanes of Delhi, Shivraj Kumar wants to ensure its success across the city.

“The posters removed are of political parties, advertisements, and tutorials,” he said.

According to the Delhi Prevention of Defacement of Property Act of 2007, which came into force in March 2009, sticking of posters, banners and wall-writings on public properties is a cognizable offence.

The penalty is a fine of up to Rs.50,000, a jail term of up to one year, or both.

“People should know that there is a fine imposed on them if they deface public property,” Shivraj Kumar added.

According to the Vasant Kunj police station, two shop owners were last year fined on a complaint by the group. They were penalized an amount of Rs.25,000 each.

Shivraj Kumar explained: “The interesting part is that we have a team of volunteers who are allotted a particular spot to monitor and clean. A warning is given to those defacing public property. If they don’t respond, we approach the authorities to fine them.”

The campaign has also started operating in Mumbai.

“If one crore residents of the city help to remove at least one poster each, the city will be cleaned in 5 minutes. And this goes for all metropolitans,” Shivraj Kumar signs off. By Lovleen Sharma