The Ugly Indians (TUI) are an anonymous group of volunteers who clean Indian streets. Volunteers can join TUI by sending a mail to The Ugly Indian or by registering one's name and email address on TUI's official Facebook page.
|Legal status||Anonymous group|
|Purpose||A movement of anonymous volunteers working together to clean up Indian streets|
|Members self-select themselves by writing to The Ugly Indian|
TUI calls cleaning the street "spotfixing". TUI chooses small segments of road each week to clean: pavements piled up with plastic, defaced walls, footpaths rendered unusable by potholes as spotfixing places. All tools, materials and instructions are provided on the spot. All spot-fixes are self-funded and volunteers are requested to make a contribution towards material costs.
The Ugly Indian's philosophy is "Kaam chalu mooh bandh. Stop Talking, Start Working." Apart from this, TUI has general guidelines regarding spot-fixing.
TUI recognizes the spot-fix as a success only if:
Anonymity is a big attraction of the movement. The Ugly Indian describes itself as a "faceless, leaderless" volunteer organization. It is made up of self-driven and motivated people who are mostly professionals in the 25–40 age group. They remain strictly anonymous. The Ugly Indians have chosen to remain anonymous as the names and identities of specific individuals are not important  and they respond to media queries only by email. The founder of the group generated controversy for the derogative group name, which was probably a reference to himself.
Project UFO was started by TUI in Bangalore, India to clean and reclaim spaces under flyovers. This project is citizen led and has transformed 30 flyovers since 2015.  The UFO project has already spread to New Delhi, Pune and Chennai where new groups have taken up the responsibility of cleaning and beautifying these unmaintained spaces.
Project UFO was created in order to combat unwanted posters, open urination, garbage dumping and illegal parking in spaces underneath flyovers. There is an observation called ‘The Broken Window theory’ which states that if there is a broken window on a street, windows on that same street are more likely to be broken. This effect can be caused by vandals who assume that since one window is broken, it is acceptable for more windows to be broken. It may also be caused by everyday people who see a broken window and think that they do not have a responsibility to repair their own window. Activities such as garbage dumping and graffiti spread in the same way that broken windows spread. The basis of Project UFO is to reclaim public spaces under flyovers by cleaning and beautifying them, thus reducing the chance that people will continue to dump waste and place unwanted posters in these areas.
The first attempt at reclaiming a flyover was by anonymous citizens in early 2015 and was completed at Richmond Circle flyover, Bangalore. According to one of the volunteers who was interviewed by 'The Hindu', the first attempt at rejuvenating the area under Richmond Circle flyover was a failure. The Ugly Indian refined their designs and tactics to dissuade people from defacing the pillars of the flyover and applied their new design pattern on Jayadeva Flyover in October 2015. In essence, these new designs were to act as poster repellent. Seizing upon their initial success, they replicated the work across 25 flyovers and exhibited the work done under Hebbal Flyover on 10 January 2016.
Although initially the funding was purely from citizens, emboldened by the success stories of Project UFO, private companies started taking active part by donating corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds to the cause. Political officials such as ex-Mayor K. S. Satyanarayana have participated in similar events and spot fixes under the flag of TUI.
The primary method that the UFO project utilizes to reclaim public spaces is to attempt ‘spot fixes’. The design and paint color depicted in the finished pillar below are intended to prevent people from continuing to deface the flyover pillars, place posters and dump trash. Volunteers are recruited from companies donating CSR funds and from the general public via social media. To date nearly 4000 volunteers have spent their time working with TUI on their UFO project and have helped to reclaim over 30 flyovers. The cycle of fixing public spaces can be broken into four major sections.
The cause of neglect in public spaces can center around the fact that many of these spaces do not have a purpose. Areas under flyovers have typically been left unchanged in Bangalore after construction activities and with no purpose these UFO areas tend to fall into misuse. Removal of waste, posters and other discarded articles are done by volunteers to erase signs of neglect so that the space can be transformed into a space for the community. The dry waste from the flyovers is removed and sent to landfills in designated areas but the wet waste is redirected and is sent to processing plants across the city.
Volunteers are provided with aprons and gloves and work to clean the area and paint the pillars with new, vibrant colors as a way to deter further misuse of the space. The design is uniform to ensure that posters are not placed in dead spaces; the uniform design is also not distracting to drivers. The iconic triangular design on a red, terracotta background was selected after several different designs were tried. The red background was selected to brighten the area at night and cover any staining that was present on the pillars before they were painted. The triangular pattern itself was intended to be easy to paint by novices while being visually engaging enough to drown out any posters that would be placed at eye level. All of the colors were chosen so that they would be secular and non-partisan to ensure that the message of beautification does not have any political meaning.
Cleaning and beautifying spaces under flyovers is the first step, but the most important act is to create an area that people are adverse to dumping garbage in and misusing. By giving the space a function, like installing benches or plants, it prevents people from disposing of garbage in that area. Under the Domlur flyover, a skating rink has been created as a way to engage the community and to ensure that the space remains clean and well used.
The primary purpose of the beautification and cleaning is to reclaim a public space by using visual cues to dissuade people from littering or dumping. This has caused a drop in the number of posters placed by 95% at flyovers that have been reclaimed under the UFO project.
One of the keystones to creating a space that is part of the community is to ensure that it is well maintained. This creates a culture around the area to ensure that the space stays clean and well used. Companies such as Embassy group under their CSR program have donated funds for TUI to create a maintenance team that works to keep the areas that they have worked on clean after the initial project.
Project UFO has not been without objections to its mission. One of the most vocal opponents of the project is Assa Doron who stated that Project UFO and other movements like it, "[are] a form of aesthetic purification that addresses the dirt seen and smelt, but which has little regard for the wider structures of inequality underpinning public hygiene and waste-picking practices, let alone the question of waste generation, which is the product of capitalist consumption and production." He goes on to say that TUI is forcing the ideals of the middle class on society as a whole and are attempting to white wash a problem that has deeper, systemic roots. Given that Project UFO is based on a ‘spot-fix’ methodology, where volunteers come in, clean the space, then leave, Doron laments that this method leaves no way for critics to voice their concerns and ultimately leads to a ‘strong man’ mentality where only the voice of TUI is heard.
People who frequent the areas around the flyovers have some concerns as well; especially those that are the most impacted by the changes to the UFO areas. They believe that the project to reclaim spaces under flyovers has an important mission, but that the areas that have been ‘spot-fixed’ will not remain that way. These groups believe that spaces that were once dirty and misused will simply return to their previous state after several months.
The Ugly Indian conducted a comprehensive survey on their UFO Project which audited nearly 2200 pillars (metro & flyover) on 17 April 2019. The survey was conducted on this date because it was the day prior to Lok Sabha Elections (General Elections) in Bangalore; elections typically produce a slew of new posters hung on every vertical surface which would allow TUI to see if their poster deterrent designs for flyover pillars were effective. Out of the 950 flyover pillars, only 4% were found defaced or marked with posters.
Emulating Project UFO BBMP has launched its own "Adopt-a-Flyover’’ initiative as part of the Clean Bangalore Campaign in 2018. Companies have the ability to adopt, maintain and beautify flyovers in and around Bangalore through this initiative. The first adopted flyover was Veeranapalya on the Outer Ring Road which was funded by L&T Technologies and designed by TUI. BBMP hopes that this will be the first of many adoptions in Bangalore which will help to keep the city clean and well maintained. Project UFO brought due attention to the abuse of public property and defacement of pillars.
TereBins are dustbins provided by TUI for public use. TereBins weigh around 20–25 kilograms (44–55 lb) and are meant for paper cups, banana skins, cigarette packets and similar small litter. TUI provides tereBin service – which involves identifying ideal locations, installing the bins, setting up a daily clearing system and integrating with the local garbage clearance system and daily supervision. Terebins can be "adopted" (for a fee of INR 2,000).
The wonderloo is an open urinal that protects the privacy of the users. The loo is unmanned and free to use. As of 2014, some 10 urinals are in operation. TUI, in association with the local BBMP office, ensures that each wonderloo is cleaned twice a day.
According to TUI, they have declined multiple offers from companies wanting to sponsor tereBins and WonderLOOs in return for advertising. However, TUI accepts adoption requests, especially from companies, if they do so without advertising on the specific object.