Mumbai’s Beach Clean-Up Suspended After Afroz Shah Alleges Abuse

Faced with abuse and heckling, Mumbai’s largest citizen-driven beach clean-up drive now stands suspended.

Published
Environment
2 min read
Afroz Shah cleans up Mumbai’s Versova beach with other voluteers.
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After tirelessly cleaning up Mumbai’s Versova beach every Saturday and Sunday for over 109 weeks, Mumbai-based lawyer Afroz Shah has now suspended the clean up drive.

Shah’s decision comes after he and his fellow volunteers were allegedly heckled and abused by goons while on their regular clean up drive.

This has been going on for about six weeks now. Every time we were heckled, I used to tell our volunteers to take it easy as it could have been in the heat of the moment. The civic workers, who were working with me, also told me that people were attacking them with bamboos. I have worked very hard on this. Two years is a long time, to be able to balance my profession and this (beach clean-up), but being heckled broke my morale and courage.
Afroz Shah, lawyer and citizen volunteer

For his initiative, Shah has been awarded by the United Nations and applauded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He started the beach clean-up initiative with a handful of volunteers back in 2015, but now hundreds of volunteers, including students, residents of Versova, and working professionals, have joined the initiative.

With their collective effort, the volunteers have managed to pick up nearly 9 million kg of garbage so far.

When asked if he has filed a police complaint against the alleged goons, Shah said he met the senior police inspector at Mumbai’s Versova police station and has been promised that the miscreants will be traced.

But who are the people who could be responsible for this?

The heckling happens around Versova Jetty where most of the fishermen live. We are not sure where they come from. They could be living around the area or could also be outsiders. Even the BMC workers picking garbage around the area have been heckled and attacked.
Afroz Shah, lawyer

In his tweet, Shah also mentioned administrative lethargy as another reason for suspending his campaign. He, however, said he isn’t going to blame anyone but the mindset of certain people who would rather litter than help clean up.

“I don’t want it to be us versus them. If I wanted it to be that way, I would have tweeted about it from day one. I’m not going to complaint, I want to be part of the solution” said Shah.

Mumbaikars, including celebrities, have tweeted in support of Shah.

For now, Shah is still unsure whether he will get back to Versova beach this weekend to continue where he left off last Sunday.

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