Integrate us in the recycling process, say rag pickers
They work around eight hours a day, cover around 7 to 9 km, bending about a few hundred times. Together the over 20,000 waste pickers in the city end up recycling around 600 to 800 tonnes of waste, and help the civic body save around Rs. 13 lakh to Rs. 15 lakh a day. Yet, they’re largely ignored by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike.
The waste pickers who work on the street continue to struggle to make their ends meet and hope that the piles of garbage has something that would help them earn a few hundred rupees every week. Venugopal N. (22), who has worked as a waste picker for a five years near Fraser Town says, “We have been segregating waste for a long time now. It will help our livelihood and the civic body as well if we are given some role to play in the new segregation model.”
Another waste picker, Narasimha V. (25), who was sitting amid a huge pile of garbage that was filled with stench and consisted of alcohol bottles, plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, milk covers, paper says, “We have to live day in and day out in this dirt. We hope that the BBMP will at least provide us jackets and uniforms.”
Talking about his biggest “catch”, he has found he says, “Two years ago when I went to collect scrap from an apartment, I found three mobile phones. It was a special day that I will never forget. I took back home a big box of sweets that day. But there are days when we find nothing.”
Everyday for the waste pickers on the street is a gamble. While they earn close to Rs. 300 on one day, there are several days when they have to go home empty-handed. The BBMP has issued identity cards in 2011 to some of the waste pickers, several waste pickers continue to wait for their identity cards. Nalini Shekar, Founder of Hasiru Dala, on organisation that works for the welfare of waste pickers says that 6,000 out of the 7,000 registered members have got their identity cards. “There is a lot of demand for identity cards as the ID card gives them the right to collect waste and the exploitation they face has reduced.”
Speaking about the problems of the waste pickers, Ms. Shekar said: “The civic body needs to be considerate about the livelihood of the waste pickers and integrate them in the recycling process. They need to make use of their labour, skill and knowledge and make trash a tradable commodity.”
Even though the BBMP had stated that the waste pickers can avail themselves of healthcare benefits of the Vajpayee Arogyasri scheme with the smart cards, Ms. Shekar says that the cards were of no use and the announcement was a “farce” as the government has not yet paid the trust that runs the scheme, which is preventing the waste pickers from utilising health benefits under the scheme.
Sources in the BBMP health department said that around 400 waste pickers were given smart cards under the Arogyasri scheme but the State Health department was yet to implement the scheme. “The Health department needs to finance the trust that runs the scheme, until then the beneficiaries cannot avail the scheme.”
The source also said that the waste pickers could avail themselves of health benefits under the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojna as the Union government had recently approved to include waste pickers for this programme.