This video captures a common everyday scene which every Bengalurean is now accustomed to seeing - the sight of broken pushcarts overflowing with household waste being pushed with difficulty, the sight of huge mounds of rotting garbage lying on the ground. The heartrending sight of workers bending over ankle-deep in rotten stinky waste and laboriously filling up a large compactor vehicle with small shovels and baskets manually, while the compactor system is meant to be filled up by a mechanical operation, directly from tippers to compactors.
This is the pitiable state of our waste workers functioning in a broken system of Collection and Transportation operating across 70% of the City. Collection of mixed waste, by pushcarts or Luggage autos, open roadside dumping in the secondary points, manual loading and unloading from the secondary point.
The other facet of this broken system is the appalling working conditions of the waste workers, which is a gross violation of the human dignity without any consideration of their health and safety.
Bangalore City has been a trail-blazer of sorts in the area of Solid Waste Management with mandated three-way segregation at source, supporting ward /zonal collection and processing infrastructure, bulk generators having to manage their own waste, innovations from private services and solution providers. Why then, are we seeing this anomaly? The other poignant questions with which the video concludes also needs a discussion.
No takers for new performance-based tender
The Court and notifications from the BBMP, through a spate of directions, have addressed what kind of waste can be collected (wet, dry, domestic sanitary waste) and (the destination) where it needs to be taken. The process detailing the nature of the waste collection and transportation is also defined and detailed in the Door-to-Door collection contract.
However, unwilling to be subjected to a performance contract as detailed as the Tender 2015 norms and conditions, the contractors have refused to bid for the Tender. In the meantime, since the daily routine of waste collection and transportation (C&T) has to continue, the men and the vehicles are provided for by the very same contractors who have been unwilling to subject themselves to the stringent norms and conditions.
As is obvious, this monthly hiring system is a loosely operated ad-hoc system with no process requirements outlined. There is therefore no accountability either from the suppliers of these vehicles and men, nor from the Health Inspector as to the process of waste collection and transportation to be followed.
So what we have on hand is a broken system of hiring men and vehicles, whatever they may be, a luggage auto, a push cart or in the rare instance an auto tipper who are paid a fixed monthly lump sum amount. Every ward sees a monthly hiring outflow of anywhere between Rs. 15-25 lakhs. This is paid with unerring regularity with no checks in place and no co relation to the number of vehicles on the ground or houses which have got serviced or the amount of waste collected and transported.
What we see on the ground is the bare minimum in terms of tools and equipment and vehicles being provided to the waste workers and a complete negligence of the process being followed leading the waste workers to improvise with broken push carts, torn mats, brooms made by the workers themselves and decrepit condition of vehicles.
New collection system by BBMP
The BBMP is now considering an imminent restructuring of the collection system. The BBMP has finally realised the futility of depending on the contractors to carry out the waste C&T operations.
The BBMP has planned to set up its own fleet all secondary vehicles and wherever needed, auto tippers for primary collection
The BBMP is planning to set up worker co-operatives. This will mean that the co-operative will be directly entrusted with the collection and transportation, street sweeping and managing of the bio-methanation plants, composting and the leaf shredding facilities, payment of salaries will be directly made to their account.
The BBMP is planning to set up worker welfare facilities like toilets, changing rooms, dining rooms, proper tools and equipment.
What you can do
The BBMP has directed its ward officials to create auto blocks of 750 households. What citizens need to ensure is this:
In every auto block, as a citizen volunteer you can monitor and give feedback on your auto block, on http://bbmp.sahaaya.in/, or on BBMP Sahaaya app.
Check whether every auto block has an Auto tipper, with a driver and a helper.
Check whether the auto tipper carries out the door-to-door collection in a regular and timely way. Only the auto tipper will do the door-to-door collection.
Check and ensure that the block residents segregate their waste at source and hand over to the auto tipper.
This will ensure vehicle-to-vehicle transfer of waste, ensure limited or no handling of waste by waste workers.
Sandya Narayanan and Lalitha Mondreti are members of Solid Waste Management Round Table (SWMRT), that is working towards sustainable waste management and dignity through health and safety for waste workers.
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