After the sun sets, these people appear. Armed with brushes, scrubbers and paint cans they gather at bus stops, post-offices and ration shops to remove posters, clean up the muck and make it beautiful. Thuvakkam, an NGO started 2 years ago in Chennai, came up with this concept of 'Cleanup after dark.' and that's why they are called the midnight cleaners of Chennai.
Why midnight you may ask?
When the group initially set out on the roads to clean it up, they received a lot of backlash from the public and authorities saying they were disrupting activity. So, in order to work at peace and also give people that surprise factor when they wake up next morning to see beautifully painted walls which were earlier tarnished with political and cinema posters, they work while the city is asleep.
How easy was it ?
When it comes to seeking permissions from the authorities, whatever the reason maybe, it is a long tiring wait. And then inspite of due permissions, there is the regular police protocol drill you have to follow. Though it was a tough initial few months, things have become an easy task now so much so that the Corporation requests them to clean up public spaces.
Is this a success initiative?
Started in 2014, Thuvakkam – Chennai has over 160 members and 2600 Facebook likes and counting. Their midnight cleanups have garnered a lot of public interest and many are joining in. Krishna Kumar, Founder, Thuvakkam NGO recalls their first cleanup at Manadaveli busstop, 'It was 1-1.30a.m. Suddenly a few people living nearby, possibly disturbedly the noise, came out to ask what we were up to. Knowing why, they immediately called all the neighbours and started helping us. All this in the middle of the night. '
If more people are part of such initiatives, a clean beautiful Chennai can soon become a reality.