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  • India Grand Challenges 10): Understanding national climate patterns and adapting to them.
  • India Grand Challenges 9): Providing learner centric, language neutral and holistic education to all.
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  • India Grand Challenges 7): ensuring quantity and quality of water in all rivers and aquatic bodies.
  • India Grand Challenges 6): Guaranteeing nutritional security and elimination female and child anaemia.
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  • India Grand Challenges 2): Developing commercially viable decentralised and distributed energy for all.
  • India Grand Challenges 1): Ensuring universal eco-friendly waste management .

 Jabir Karat: A Student, A Rag Picker And A Social Entrepreneur 

Date of Publish - Saturday, 3rd February 2018

Jabir Karat was born in a small village called Puthuppadi in Kerala, nearly 45 km away from Kozhikode city. He grew up as an ordinary boy and got educated in Government School.

Jabir was all set to enroll himself in a local college when he got a scholarship to go to Delhi and study at Zakir Husain Delhi College. Jabir decided to move to there and study history. This was when his life took an interesting turn.

After graduation, Jabir went on to do an MA in the same subject from Delhi University.
Jabir was certain he wanted to do something more actionable. It is around this time that he was selected for the Gandhi Fellowship. Jabir credits this two-year residential programme for changing his life.

The experience inspired Jabir to embark on a career that was meaningful. After spending seven years away from his home state, he was ready to go back to Kerala and start a social enterprise.

Jabir was in search of a sustainable business idea. He started researching the biggest problems our country would face in the next 10 years. And he decided to focus on the burgeoning problem of waste management.
In order to get a firm grasp on the subject, Jabir went to Coimbatore for three months and trained under Vellore Srinivasan, Project Director of Indian Green Service, and a solid and liquid resource management company. Here, he worked as a rag picker.

Once his three months were up, Jabir felt he was ready to take on the challenge of starting a new business. Green Worms started in the small town of Thamarassery in Kozhikode district. The team leased out a one-acre plot to segregate waste and also set up a composting unit.

Usually, the shopkeepers in the area would just dump their waste on the roadside or throw it in the river. Jabir convinced them to dispose of their waste responsibly. His three-member team started the process by managing the waste of shopkeepers and traders. Green Worms would charge them a small service fee for the same.

However, this didn’t last long. Most shopkeepers realized that irresponsibly dumping their garbage somewhere and forgetting about it was much cheaper than actually paying to get it managed.

This was a lesson for Jabir and his small team. They then decided to include other services in what they offered. Jabir and his team now conduct waste literacy programmes in schools. Here, they teach children about the different types of waste, segregation, recycling, composting, etc.

They also conduct weddings and other functions on the ‘zero waste’ principle. For the functions, they provide recyclable plates made from ceramic, steel, etc. If the client wants disposable plates, they provide plates and glasses made from arecanut. As an alternative, they also encourage people to use the traditional banana leaves while serving food.

Green Worms also disposes of the waste at these events. The organic waste is taken to its processing unit and converted into compost.
Their work has gained a lot of traction and people keep calling them to tackle the waste generated at events.


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