A former rag picker gets a garbage disposal system going, with a bit of help

It is one of Bangalore's first citizens' initiatives: door-to-door garbage collection to prevent dumping of waste in public places. The effort is now well over a decade old, thanks to the dedication not only of residents but of a former rag picker too.

It was in 1996 that the Shanthinagar Residents' Development Association (SHRED) started door-to-door garbage collection from houses and commercial establishments in the locality, for which they employed a few former rag pickers with the help of Mythri, a non-governmental organisation.

This initiative, led by SHRED president Frederick D'Sa and secretary Kathyayini Chamaraj, has over the years helped residents of Shathinagar breathe clean, while becoming a model for other residents' associations. Here too is a story of how the latent spirit of entrepreneurship in a rag picker was given a platform to evolve.

Anwar Ahmed (42), a former rag picker who has been leading SHRED's initiative with his team for the past 13 years, has ensured through his dedication that garbage collection is uninterrupted in the locality. Six of his family members depend for their livelihoods on this.

Mr. Ahmed took over the work of garbage collection with his wife, Manjula. Over the past few years he engaged his two sons — Kumar and Santosh — to help out while ensuring it did not affect their education. Kumar has completed II PUC and Santosh has finished his 10{+t}{+h} with financial assistance from SHRED.

Recycling

Apart from collecting a monthly subscription (ranging from Rs. 15 to Rs. 25) from independent houses as well as apartments, and over Rs. 100 from commercial establishments, Mr. Ahmed and his team also earn a bit extra by recycling paper, bottles, plastic covers they segregate, says Ms. Chamaraj.

Mr. Ahmed built a house of his own in Vinobhanagar (off K.H. Road) a couple of years ago from his savings.

When he found it difficult to transport collected garbage to Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike's collection points, he mortgaged the house nine months ago to buy a used goods autorickshaw through a private financer-cum-transporter.

“When we started this initiative, we never thought that it will sustain for long. It is Anwar and his family members who made this a success,” Ms. Chamaraj said.

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