They gather the strings of roads, terraces, posts and fences. Typically, a 60-80 kg pile of ropes is brought onto the school grounds and the hazardous waste is purchased by the school and parents for Rs 20 per kg. The stack is sent to a village tailor’s shop, where chair cushions are made with string as stuffing.
The cushions are used by the school and also by the gram panchayat office. The initiative was started four years ago by Hasmukh Patel, Headmaster of Ahmedpur Government Primary School. He was pained to see dozens of birds injured after being caught in those sharp kite strings for several days after Uttarayan. “I kept thinking of a solution. Four years ago I thought I could have the kids pick up the strings,” Patel said. “They are energetic and continue to run in the village. So much to recover the strings.
Ahmedpur Primary School has 250 students studying in grades 1 to 8. The population of the small village is around 2000 people.
“I talked to the kids before Uttarayan about this idea. I didn’t know how they would react,” Patel said. “I also told them that the biggest collection of strings would get a gift. A few days after Uttarayan, I saw students carrying extra bags. He added: “They had been picking up strings all over the village. I was amazed that the total collections weigh 80 kg!
Patel said that after the Manja threat was cleared from the village, he didn’t know what the next step should be. “So we piled up the strings and set it on fire,” he said. “But later, some villagers pointed out the environmental danger.”
The following year, the children again brought around 80kg of kite strings, Patel said. “As an experiment, I took some of it to the tailor’s shop and asked him to make me a chair cushion,” he said. “The cushion he made was very comfortable to sit on!” The remaining pile of cords was also sent to the tailor, and many cushions were made.
Patel said the School Management Committee (SMC), made up of parents, took over that effort. “The following year, village members paid 20 rupees per kg to the children and the pile was again turned into comfortable cushions,” Patel said. “I asked the president of the SMC about the source of the funds. I was told that the inhabitants of the village had made a donation!
Gulabsinh Zala, the chairman of SMC, which runs a grocery store in the village, said, “We thought this initiative would gradually die out if the children were not given incentives. Zala added, “So my friends and I asked people to donate whatever they could. Some gave 5 rupees, some 10 rupees and some 200 rupees. ropes to the children Zala’s two daughters and a son study at school.