Meet the Plogman of India

Patriot catches up with Ripu Daman Bevli, India’s foremost exponent of plogging – a sport that combines marathon running and picking up litter along the way

Plogging is a combination of two words, formed from ‘jogging’ and ‘plocka upp’, which is Swedish for ‘pick up’. It refers to an emerging international trend, in which someone picks up trash while jogging or brisk walking as a way of cleaning up litter while also taking care of fitness. It is estimated that while a regular run burns around 230 calories, plogging burns approximately 288 calories per session.

The trend was started in Sweden by Erik Ahlström in 2016, when he used to pick up trash daily during his morning runs, and slowly and steadily this emerged as a global trend thanks to social media, while also finding a way to India.

The first Indian exponent of this unique sport is Ripu Daman Bevli, who is often referred to as the “Plogman of India”. He began this journey alone but now through his group “Ploggers of India”, he has organised over 500 clean up drives in 75+ cities across the country, thus, setting a world record. Patriot talks to him on his journey and the future of plogging in India.

Q) When did you first start plogging, and how did this unique idea come to your mind?

In 2016, I started running long distances, and that’s when I saw how at running events there is a blatant misuse of resources and there’s a lot of plastic pollution. Also, I as an individual wanted to make a difference with regards to the littering habit that we as a country and as a society have.

So it was a two-pronged challenge that I wanted to solve and I decided to create a national movement. I introduced “Run and Cleanup”. As we were running or jogging and picking up litter which was later called “Plogging in Sweden” and that’s how the whole Plogger India concept came into existence.

That’s what we have been at it for the last 3+ years now combining fitness and running to fight the garbage crisis in the country.

Q) Tell us a little bit about yourself. Your years growing up and life before you turned to plogging.

I was born & brought up in Delhi. I have a very simple, middle-class upbringing by a single mother. She’s my inspiration & strongest person I know and whatever little good that I have, I believe it’s from her. Even the travelling bug or the cleanliness bug is something that I have got from her.

I did engineering and then was with tech companies, MNCs & start-ups for about almost eight years. I had a corporate & start-up career but then in 2018, I decided to leave all of that to focus full-time on the mission to make India litter-free. Right now with Ploggers of India is my full-time focus, commitment and life’s mission.

Q) How many plogging drives have you organized so far?

So far, I have organised over 500 drives in the country. The very recent one was the ‘Virtual Plog Run’ on 2 October, which was the 151st Gandhi Jayanti. People across the country participated and showed their support in our mission to make India litter-Free.

Ripu Daman Bevli leading the cleanup at the Marina beach Chennai

Q) What has people’s participation been for plogging in India? Have you seen a rise in the number?

When we started out, it was a big challenge to get people to be a part of our drives but that was the whole idea -]- to make the activity of cleaning up the litter of other people, the coolest thing to do in the country and that’s how the term ‘plogging’ was adopted. From small numbers in Delhi to actually covering more than 80 cities.

Then with the adoption of the government of India, we’ve seen close to 1 crore people participating across the country. The numbers have grown but slowly and steadily we want to take this to every nook and corner of every district of the country.

Q) Tell us a little bit about Ploggers of India.

The Ploggers of India movement started in 2017. When I was running and training in parks in Delhi in the morning when there are less people and no traffic. During that time, I used to observe litter and plastic everywhere in the parks and on the other hand, see how people would observe and completely be ignorant.

These people would also crib and complain about it, blaming the government and the authorities. I thought let’s change this and do something about it ourselves. We made cleaning up the cooldown activity of our running group. So people used to run, used to train and after the running, we used to cool down by slowly jogging & picking up litter, That’s how India’s first run and clean-up movement started from Delhi in 2017.

We are into the fourth year now of the movement and over the last few years, I have personally organized clean up drives across eighty plus cities and towns across the country.

The movement has grown significantly, we’ve touched almost across a crore people, the government of India has adopted our mission of making India litter free and honoured me with the title of Plogman of India and Fit India Ambassador.

With a mandate to take this to all 700+ districts of India, we want to make and honour Regional champions, who will regularly participate in their societies and localities so that the impact is long-lasting and we are able to realise the dream of litter-free India.

Ripu Daman Bevli at a School

Q) What has been the most memorable moment in your journey so far?

The most memorable moment in the last four years has always come with our drives with kids in schools because the kind of enthusiasm and motivation they have for this activity, it takes it to like fish to water and this gives me confidence that we’re on the right track to make significant impact and changes. These kids who have been a part of our drives will drive a positive change and lead us to our future.

Ripu with Kiren Rijiju the current Minister of State of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports  

Q) You are now a Fit India ambassador. How did that shape up and what are your responsibilities as a Fit India ambassador?

It’s wonderful to see that the Government of India adopted our mission under the FIT India initiative which is the most ambitious fitness and sports initiative by the government. Our idea of combining FIT India with Swachh Bharat got the recognition that it needed. With this, we have been able to reach across the country.

My responsibilities as a FIT India Ambassador are to take this activity to each and every district of the country and create district wise leaders and communities which are working on the ground within their reach and making social and responsible citizens who drive this change within their community.

Q) What are your plans for the future? How do you see plogging growing in India in the coming years?

In terms of our plans, we have already been running our campaign ‘Plastic-Upvaas’ for the last year or so and we intend to take this to global level where we want to give this message of ‘Plastic-Upvaas’ and why we should fast from the one thing which is destroying the planet and our health at the same time — single use plastic. So, it’ll be a very powerful message that India gives out to the world.

Another campaign that I’m planning is ‘Ride for Change’ which will be a Zero-Emission and Zero-Waste ride across the country covering some 6,000-7,000 km across the country and it will be done early next year in a span of about two months.

Everything that we do is tied to our goal and our dream of a ‘Litter-free India’. So, we continue to work towards that and everything that we do, every activity, every campaign leads to that dream.

Q) A message for our readers.

The most important message that everyone needs to hear is that with the current pandemic, we have seen how our activities have impacted the environment when we stayed inside, we could see our environment,  pristine and beautiful, which means that our activities have really negatively impacted our environment. And it is time to rethink our relationship with the environment because Mother Earth is the only permanent home we have with its nature, trees and animals around us, not the four-wall of our house, and we need to save it for our future generations.

(Cover: Ripu Daman Bevli- FIT India Ambassador and Plogman of India on his Plog Run PHOTOS: Clarity Communications)

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