On a green mission

Dr. K. Vasuki, Exectuive Director of Kerala Suchitwa Mission.Photo: Saraswathy Nagarajan   | Photo Credit: Saraswathy Nagarajan

K. Vasuki has a simple prescription to free the city from plastic waste: reduce, reuse and recycle. As the city gears up for the annual Attukal Pongala on February 23, the petite Executive Director of the Kerala Suchitwa Mission, Dr. Vasuki, is on her toes to work with the city Corporation and the district administration to implement a plastic-free and disposables-free Pongala.

The straight-talking administrator has already proved her point by showcasing an “almost plastic-free National Games” and schools youth festival recently. Giving all credit to the main people working behind the National Games, and the youth festival, especially team leaders like former Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose and Director of Public Instruction M.S. Jaya, she says it was team work and enthusiasm of officials and volunteers that made it possible.

Determined and confident, Dr. Vasuki does not believe in big talk and no action. On the contrary, even in her personal life, she refuses to be a pawn and enjoys charting her own destiny, whether it be in choosing her life partner, S. Karthikeyan, or her career. “I have always wanted to work for society and I believe my profession helps me do that. As a medical practitioner, I might have succeeded in treating people but as a civil services officer, the opportunity to make a significant difference to the lives of a large section of society is more,” she avers.

In her house at Jawahar Nagar, surrounded by her mother and two young children, Dr. Vasuki says: “As a young mother and resident, I am concerned about the tonnes of plastic waste that are being burnt. It releases dioxins and furans, some of the most toxic substances known to mankind, into the atmosphere. Since we still don’t have foolproof methods to dispose the plastic, all over India, every day, frightening amounts of plastics are burnt. The best way to improve this situation is to cut down on plastics and reduce the use of use-and-throw disposables.”

She argues that if Indians go back to their roots and look at their own ethos, generation of disposables’ waste would immediately come down. “Thanks to clever marketing strategies, we have wholeheartedly adopted Western consumerism and their style of use and throw philosophy. Take the case of food. We have tiffin carriers and metal flasks for water. Remember how our parents used to carry food and water when we used to travel? We must rediscover all that,” says Vasuki.

To reduce the use of disposable items, appeals have been placed in all media as part of a special campaign called ‘Ammakkoru Steel Glass’. Devotees and residents are requested to donate a steel tumbler and plate for serving food to devotees offering Pongala. Collection centres have been opened at different places for the same.

The successful model of the National Games has been shared with administrators and organisers of the Pongala. “I want to appeal to all devotees to bring their own steel tumblers and plates so that they don’t have to accept food in disposable plates. I also want to request them not to litter. Take back everything that you bring so that the Corporation is not overwhelmed by the waste that is left behind after the Pongala,” she says.

She feels that if any state in India can prove to be a model in waste disposal in India, it is Kerala as the people are literate and aware. “In spite of some cynicism, there is widespread approval for our efforts to curtail the use of plastics unnecessarily. In fact, in Kannur, District Collector P. Balakiran was able to organise a green election during the last local body election. We hope to replicate that during the forthcoming general election by getting the parties involved to work for a ‘green election.’” The Swachh Bharat Mission itself has taken note of the ‘green election’ and they hope to take that model to other states as well, she adds.

Dr. Vasuki does not only preach. She practises. At her house, neatly segregated waste is arranged in the backyard. In three bins, the lady of the house is trying out different methods of biodegradation. On the terrace, she plans to start vegetable farming with the decomposed waste. “All this is new for us too. So I am also trying to see which works best in our environment,” she smiles.

She is optimistic that Malayalis will take the ‘Green Protocol’ to heart and do their best to make the city and the state a model for waste disposal.

Short takes

* This is a sari that my husband, then boyfriend, gifted me to wear for the interview of the civil services examination. Both of us were students of Madras Medical College and we decided to work for the civil services.

* I used to be a backbencher in the academy [Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration] at Mussoorie. I did not want to be in the rat race but wanted to work for the development of people. I hope I can inculcate that in my children as well.

* Initially posted in Madhya Pradesh, I was working in Dindori district. It was the Biaga tribe there that completely changed my outlook. I am a city-bred woman but it is amazing how close encounters with the tribal members changed my perspective.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 5:08:19 AM |

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