Mariamma, a pourakarmika, appeared a little confused. She was among the scores of pourakarmikas who underwent training on garbage segregation on Thursday. “We have no pushcarts. All we get is one big drum in which garbage collected in plastic covers is dumped. I understood my role; however, we have to see if this plan will work.”

Echoing Ms. Mariamma’s statement, her colleague Panchalamma said that these plans may be good. “But I do hope that citizens learn to segregate and give us only wet waste. That apart, I also hope our needs are addressed as well.”

Short film

Nearly 200 pourakarmikas attended the training programme organised by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Solid waste management experts showed them first-hand how the garbage had to be segregated. A short film on the subject, made by renowned director Girish Kasaravalli, was also screened for them.

Addressing the pourakarmikas, BBMP Commissioner Rajneesh Goel sought their support to put an end to the garbage crisis in the city. “Segregated garbage is black gold; mixed garbage is nothing but poison.” He extolled them to teach what they had learnt to the citizens. “It takes just five minutes. You have all seen the short film and now know how easy it is.”

New garbage tenders will protect the pourakarmikas’ interests. “I know that many of you don’t have proper pushcarts and you don’t have uniforms or gloves. Under the new garbage tenders, the contractor will be liable to provide these facilities to you.”

Shanthinagar MLA N.A. Haris said citizens cannot be threatened with fines and made to segregate garbage at source. “We have to take the public along with us by making them aware of the situation. The city recently witnessed a garbage crisis and part of the problem was non-payment of salaries to the pourakarmikas,” he said.

Solid waste management expert N.S. Ramakanth said pourakarmikas could convince people on segregating waste by showing them how to do it. “Segregation is not difficult. If somebody hands over mixed waste, you must [show them up by] segregating it in front of their house itself.”

Pourakarmikas must educate citizens to have two-bin system in their homes, said Kathyayini Chamaraj from CIVIC. “One bin should be for wet waste and the other for dry. However, the BBMP must allow citizens to discard wet waste in biodegradable covers in the interest of the pourakarmikas.”

The Shantinagar Residents’ Welfare Association had been seeking land to set up a segregation point for the past 15 years. “It was sanctioned three times and cancelled,” she added.

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