On June 27 at Freedom Park, Bangalore, thousands of waste pickers of Hasiru Dala and Clean City Recyclers Association (CCRA) came together to celebrate Hasiru Habba, which translates to “Green Festival”. It is an annual event which brings waste pickers, policymakers and experts under one roof. Hasiru Dala is an organisation which represents almost 10,000 waste pickers, itinerant waste buyers and small scrap dealers of Karnataka.
Waste Pickers – backbone of proper waste management in the city
Waste pickers play an important role in waste management in Bengaluru. Waste pickers and informal waste collectors of the city are the backbones of the decentralized inclusive waste management system. Their contribution in waste collection and management has helped the Bengaluru municipal body save more than Rs 84 crore annually by recycling 1050 tons of waste. Due to the significant role they play in keeping the city healthy, waste pickers of the city have been recognised as an important stakeholder in the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
However, do we even spare a thought for these people who have to work in dirty conditions so that our city remains clean?
This year’s event was special as the District Commissioner, Bangalore Urban, dedicated 500 houses specifically for waste pickers under free housing project. The ongoing enumeration and issuance of occupational identity cards to waste-pickers in all cities of Karnataka have been significant towards recognizing the work of this community of waste workers.
Nalini Shekar, social activist and co-founder of Hasiru Dala, on behalf of the waste pickers, shared the following demands of the workers:
- State government should prepare resource recovery and recycling policy that is based on the principles of circular economy and integrate informal workers in the waste management sector.
- Continuation of enumeration of waste-pickers and issuance of occupational identity cards to waste-pickers in all cities of Karnataka. Demand for re-initiation of the exercise in Bengaluru, as BBMP has stopped issuing the occupational identity cards.
- Inclusion of waste-pickers’ representatives in all committees from Municipal, Gram Panchayat level to State level formed to formulate plans for solid waste management and monitoring their progress. This has already been prescribed in Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.
- Recognising that the safety and security of the family is sustainable only with appropriate housing, they demanded :
- Karnataka Government has already dedicated 500 houses for waste pickers, a demand for relaxation of the eligibility criteria was made so that the waste pickers who have lived in the city for decades but who have received ID cards recently would also be considered for the housing.
- Some of the waste pickers who have public housing need their homes to be repaired and upgraded to avoid flooding in their homes in the next rains. The request was made to the government to float a scheme for loans with a lower interest rate.
- Hasiru Dala is experimenting with upgrading and building homes with construction debris. Request to the government to approve and give loans for such upgradation of the housing.
- Enumeration of migrant waste-pickers and issuance of occupational identity cards to them.
- Extension of access to food through public distribution system as has been promised in the Congress party manifesto.
- Allocation of budget for training and skill upgradation of waste-pickers and informal waste collectors as has been mandated by Solid Waste Management Rules 2016.
- Children of waste pickers are one of the most marginalized children in the urban landscape. Their future is severely affected by not having safe and stable housing and access to basic resources like water and electricity. Hasiru Dala’s children’s program- Buguri Community Library works with children of waste collectors through a library program in their community and understands the day to day struggles of children. With both parents at work, it becomes their responsibility to fend for these basic needs. This severely hampers their education and their access to a hygienic environment.
- Demand for every housing facility constructed by the government provides to have the basic services of water and electricity.
The Logical Indian appreciates all the waste pickers, itinerant waste buyers, small scrap dealers for continually doing an outstanding job in the waste management of the city. We also hope that the concerned authorities look into their demands and act upon it swiftly.