Bilal Dar

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2017/ Brand ambassador of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation

M Saleem Pandit, 18-year-old ragpicker Bilal becomes example for Kashmiri boys, Sep 24, 2017: The Times of India

Bilal Dar was 14 year old when he started earning his living by picking up waste from the Wular Lake in Bandipora district of north Kashmir in 2013. Bilal's father Mohammad Ramzan Dar, who also a Ragpicker, died in 2003 due to cancer and he took to collecting plastic trash and other waste material from the Wular lake which would fetch him Rs 150-200 per day, which helped him financially support his mother Mughali Appa and two sisters.

It was a day of 18 year old Bilal Dar alias Billa of Laharwarpora of Bandipora district when Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned his name in Mann Ki Baat on radio address.

According to Srinagar Municipal commissioner Dr. Shafkat Khan , Bilal used to collect over 12,000 kg trash annually till this day from the Lake which besides offered him livelihood, helped Lake to get rid of pollution caused due to garbage thrown in the lake by the residents living near the Wular Lake, he added.

"I used to take somebody's boat in the wee hours of every morning and collect the rags from the Lake and which would fetch me some money after selling the same to trash dealers in the market," Bilal Dar told.

It was basically documentary produced by one Kashmiri film maker Jalal-u-Din Baba which depicted the life of Bilal Dar . The documentary won several awards in Mumbai and in the US at film festivals, according to producer Baba.

"Now we have appointed Dar as brand ambassador of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation. He will be given a special uniform and a vehicle to go and meet people in srinagar's commercial and residential areas, to tell people the story of his work in Wular. This will help sensitise urban residents to understand value of environmental issues, cleanliness and garbage disposal," Dr Shafkat Khan said.

Bilal Dar said, "I am very happy today that my work even acknowledged by the no less than the prime minister of India Modi." While Tassaduq Mufti, brother CM mehbooba Mufti gave me a boat for collection of garbage from the lake, state government gave Rs.50,000 for construction of house. Though this is meagre amount to build a house yet I am satisfied with whatever, help the government provided me, Bilal Dar said.

The world famous wular lake is on the verge of dying due to dumping of toxic debris, plastic, carcasses and much more.The Lake has reduced from 273 km to just 72 km of water expanse. Ironically, the present state BJP minister for Forest and environment ministry Lal Singh has stopped the funds allocated by the GOI for its conservation, the forest officials disclosed.

Soon after his father's death in 2003 Bilal had worked as a mechanic at an auto-repair shop and then as a helping hand at a tea shop but continued unrest in Kashmir valley forced him to take to the job of Rag picking inside the Wullar, Bilal recalled.

Bilal features in a documentary 'Saving The Savior - Story Of A Kid And Wular Lake' produced and directed by Jalal-u-Din Baba. Bilal Dar thanked Prime Minister , who mentioned his name in his Mann ki Baat on Radio. Dar however, a appealed to PM Modi to provide him a job as his family did not have any regular source of income.

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