SwaCH specialises in waste management services in Pune.
SWaCH & PCMC
In 2009-2010 the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) approached KKPKP and asked SWaCH to carry out door-to-door collection (DTDC) of waste in its limits. The PCMC agreed to provide annually-reducing viability gap funding, calculated on the basis of households covered for wards A and D, until the user fee payment was accepted by residents of the city. After this, the service would be extended to the rest of Pimpri Chinchwad.
According to the agreement (SWaCH PCMC MoU), SWaCH was to undertake primary collection (door to door) and transfer the waste to the secondary collection system. Waste pickers would retain the right to the income earned from the recovery and sale of recyclables. This scheme was launched and was functioning to the satisfaction of citizens, waste pickers and PCMC.
SWaCH terminates MoU : Yet, in 2011, PCMC invited tenders for wards B and C, and awarded an integrated contract for door to door collection and transport to the landfill, on the basis of weight of waste collected and transported. In this model, service users were not required to pay any user fees to the service provider. This went against SWaCH principles of waste management.
This led to a situation where residents of PCMC were subject to unfair terms for waste collection, depending upon where they lived. Those in wards B and C got a free service and those in wards A and D were required to pay. Justifiably, residents refused to pay for a service that others were getting free.
Recognising that in the long run the organisation would now be placed in an impossible situation with regard to user fee recovery, and the unfairness of the situation to citizens, SWaCH decided to terminate the arrangement with the PCMC from October 2012. ( SWaCH Termination Letter)
However, despite pulling out of its arrangement with PCMC, SWaCH maintained that the purposes and the premises on which integration of waste pickers was pushed by KKPKP, still remained valid today – if not even more so, given the higher costs of privatisation of services and escalating costs to the municipality and citizens as tax payers.
Responsibility of PCMC towards waste pickers : KKPKP and SWaCH made the point that since PCMC is as much responsible for poverty alleviation as it is responsible for solid waste management, it was incumbent upon the PCMC to secure the interests of waste pickers who will become unemployed.
When the PCMC invited tenders from labour contractors for door-to-door collection, SWaCH fought for the inclusion of their members/ waste collectors, who had been rendered without jobs under the new system, to be employed by the contractors. SWaCH pointed out that since waste would come from the generator into the trucks, containers have been reduced and the Moshi landfill has been privatised, these displaced workers would not be able to go back to waste picking.
SWaCH successfully campaigned for their members to be hired by the contracted parties and be paid the applicable minimum wage and statutory benefits.
Contractors’ malpractices : For a while it seemed that the waste collectors had found employment in the new system too, but a few months down the line, it became clear that there were several malpractices happening, and waste pickers were not getting their dues.
The waste collectors soon realised that the contractors paid less-than-minimum wage (Rs 50 – Rs 100 as against the required Rs 254), and were falsifying attendance records — workers were being paid for 10-12 days of work, when they had actually worked for a full month. One waste collector had worked for 23 days but her attendance record showed one day of work! If the waste pickers questioned the contractors, they were threatened into submission, transferred to distant sites, or fired.
Using the RTI Act, KKPKP gathered data which clearly implicated the contractors in manipulation of attendance and wage records. For over four months, KKPKP made attempts to dialogue with PCMC on the basis of this evidence, but when the corporation continued to dilly-dally, an indefinite dharna was launched – without disrupting waste collection services.
On the sixth day of the protest, the Municipal Commissioner, Mr S. Pardeshi, finally sat down with a group of representatives to find a solution. After examining in great detail all the documents and the evidence, the Commissioner ordered that:
• A show cause notice be issued immediately to BVG for flouting labour laws and manipulating records.
• All workers be paid through recognised bank accounts. (BVG pays its workers through Pay Direct cards, the statements for which cannot be obtained by the workers.)
• Joint meetings be held between KKPKP and the Labour Department every fortnight so that concerns raised by workers may be addressed immediately.