It will help them get health benefits

Lakshmi, a rag-picker for the past 26 years, was a happy woman on Tuesday. Her efforts in keeping the city clean were finally recognised by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

She was among the 200 rag-pickers who were given identity cards by Mayor Sharadamma.

Speaking about her average workday, the 46-year-old said that a large part of it is spent trudging several kilometres, collecting recyclable waste from the city roads and homes. She earns around Rs. 100 to Rs. 200 on a good day by selling the waste she has collected.

Mohammed Khan is another rag-picker, who has been at it for the past 25 years. He goes around on his bicycle, unlike Lakshmi who walks.

Green workers

Mayor Sharadamma, at the function, described their ilk as “green workers” belonging to the unrecognised sector that strives to keep the city clean.

Ruling Party Leader B.R. Nanjundappa commended the efforts of the rag-pickers, who reduce BBMP's burden by recycling almost 10 per cent of the dry waste from the roads. He said that with the identity cards, the “green workers” can get health benefits up to Rs. 50,000 annually under the civic body's A.B. Vajpayee Survarna Arogya scheme.

Nalini Shekar from the Alliance of Waste Pickers said that according to estimates, there are around 15,000 “green workers” in the city, who pick up dry waste, including plastic covers, bottles and paper from the city roads.

Rag-pickers are self-employed in the informal economy and earn their livelihood. “We hope to integrate them with dry waste collection centres to be set up in all wards. This will allow them dignity of labour, regular income and offer them a better work environment,” she said.

Pointing out that rag-pickers are often ill-treated and looked at with suspicion, she said that the identity cards will endorse their right to pick waste from the streets. “We have organised around 5,000 rag-pickers. The BBMP is the first urban local body in the country to issue such identity cards. This is the first step in providing them with legitimacy.”

More In: Bengaluru