For Tarun Bhalla, 39, going to his office in Delhi’s Rama Road was an everyday struggle. For the past eight months, this engineer-turned-entrepreneur had to literally wade through ‘sewage pools’. The road outside his office was filled with water which was flowing out of the drains. “Everything that was supposed to be underground in the sewers was actually floating on the streets. For eight months, this place was completely run over by sewer water,” he said.
Repeated pleas to the civic authorities as well as the local leaders came to no fruition. It was then that Bhalla decided to take matters into his own hands. Armed with quirky posters that shamed politicians, Bhalla was able to ensure that the authorities get the road cleaned.
Earlier this month, Bhalla put up three posters shaming politicians of three major political parties. The posters read, ‘Give me vote, I will give you sewage water, dengue and malaria’. The unique poster campaign caught everyone’s attention. But the most surprising response was from the Public Works Department (PWD) which responded within an hour and fixed the area’s waterlogging problem. A few days later, officials from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) also showed up and removed the posters.
Interestingly, it was a poster on the inauguration of a new public toilet that gave him the idea. “Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had put up a poster just opposite the over-flowing sewage which read ‘Congratulations, a new toilet has been inaugurated in your area’. I thought he literally meant that,” he said.
Even though he had to go through the dirty water in order to reach his office, Bhalla says the situation was much worse for people who had to actually be on the streets. “The road had been waterlogged for the past one year. We have been working despite the roads being flooded with sewage water. We’ve faced a lot of problems, and fallen sick many times,” said Shatrughan, a tea-seller who’s shop is located just outside Bhalla’s office.
Ram Chand, a security guard in his fifties, described how the situation was extremely harrowing. “People couldn’t even park cars. It was extremely difficult to walk and work in these conditions,” he said adding that he himself fell into the water twice.
Even though the situation has improved considerably but the issue is yet to be resolved. “Not everything’s been fixed. They have cleaned the street, but all the garbage has been piled on footpaths where we are supposed to walk,” Bhalla said.
But does it mean another poster campaign is in the making – Bhalla clearly isn’t interested. “My job is not to put up posters. I am not an activist. But if you are going to push me to the corner again, what choice do I have,” he said.