Students turn social cops
By Kruthi Gonwar - HYDERABAD
21st September 2012 08:47 AM
Disgusted with corruption, red-tapism, backwardness and not least, the stinking surroundings? How many times have you discussed and debated these issues at your home, college or office with your colleagues, friends and family? And, what have you done about it except complain? The answer to these questions, in most cases, would be: yes, many times and nothing. But a group of enterprising students, including one from Hyderabad, have decided that enough is enough and have taken the saying, be the change you want to see, seriously.
They call themselves the Social Cops and aim at bridging the gap between citizens and the administration. The trio, who have come up with this idea are Varun Banka from Ranchi, Prukalpa Sankar from Hyderabad and Harjoben Singh from Jallandhar – all students of the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Explaining the rationale behind the formation of the group, city girl Prukalpa says, “We have all worked extensively with NGOs on grass-roots problems in India. It was the time when the India Against Corruption movement was at its peak and we realized that people of the nation wanted to be actively involved in changing policies and bringing about a change for the better. So, we began to brainstorm about possible ways to bring that change. We wanted to start with small problems like garbage on the roads, potholes and water drainage issues.”
How does Social Cops work?
The students’ idea is rather simple. They want to create a mobile platform that allows citizens to post complaints, be it about an uncleared garbage in their neighbourhood or water leaks, through their mobile phones on a website. By coordinating with NGOs and civic authorities, the students forward or notify these complaints to the relevant officials.
They hope it will infuse a sense of accountability among officials and responsibility among citizens. “We are currently running a crowd funding campaign to get the initial requisite funds to get started,” informs Prukalpa. According to her, it was the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) that inspired them to initiate the project. “We realized that municipal corporations in India were becoming tech-savvy and wanted citizens to be actively involved in the administration issues. Especially, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC), which is our main inspiration for initiating the project,” she admits.
The corporation invites citizens to upload pictures of garbage, cleanliness issues on its Facebook page, issues them a complaint tracking number and addresses them on Facebook itself. “It was this moment that helped us put it all together and identify the change process that we were trying to create,” Prukalpa says.
What lies ahead?
The group wanted to launch a beta project out of the Delhi University Campus. “With EDMC being so supportive, we thought of choosing Delhi to kick-start the project. Once the platform is built and the beta project is proven successful, we will be able to expand it to other cities. Currently, we’ve received the maximum support from Hyderabad. Everybody is interested in supporting us. We’re also reaching out to different municipalities and local administrations.”
The group is building the product for all platforms right now and the portal should be ready and functional by the end of December. “In terms of complaining about problems, people in India can do it from Jan 2013 onwards. We want to ensure that we can create change and we want the public authorities and NGOs involved actively. So even if it takes longer, we should get it right,” says the girl.
The launch in the city will start off with a cleanliness drive and an awareness campaign, spearheaded by youngsters. The process might take time and will start off anytime in 2013. “We will be looking at colleges and will be recruiting people as campus ambassadors to involve them and try and make as many Social Cops as possible,” explains the city-based founder.
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