‘I have to battle Corona virus for my little child’, says waste picker, Kishor Bhondwe, as he safeguards the health of the city!
Waste collection in slums is a unique feature of the SWaCH Pune service, but what makes it even more special is that it is not for the faint-hearted. Starting with lack of awareness about such services to education about wet and dry segregation, to the narrow lanes where even push carts cannot go, it is fraught with difficulties. Some areas are even notoriously uncooperative and refuse to pay the user fees.
But that was the attraction for Kishor Ram Bhondwe, as he took up the challenge of working in a slum. The nay-sayers cautioned him against the futility of trying to collect segregated waste from the vasti. The citizens there would never co-operate, that there were multiple chronic spots, where open dumping of waste was rampant. He started with servicing Pt. Jawahar Vasti, Kothrud, where he would turn up for work every day and try to convince the citizens to segregate their waste, not throw it in the open, and its ill effects on health. He continued for 3 or 4 months in this manner without getting paid.* He persevered undeterred and slowly the vasti changed. Not only the citizens there give segregated waste to Kishor, but the chronic spots disappeared. The vasti was clean and neighboring Khillare vasti and Mokar vasti followed suit. The citizens there saw the transformation Jawahar vasti went through and started segregating waste.
He wrought such change that when he was on paternity leave of absence for a couple of days a few months ago, the residents stored all the waste inside their homes so that it could be taken away and disposed of properly upon his return.
Today in Corona virus times however, many cannot pay the user fees as they stare at joblessness in the future themselves. Some have moved back to native places. The residents are also concerned and urge him to take care but can do little to provide him protective equipment. They are concerned about his little baby and his family, and his vulnerability to the virus. But Kishor is not to be distracted from providing a service and reassures the residents through the protocols he follows everyday as he has been trained: social distancing, PPE use and hand washing. He does not want to see the system he painstakingly put together crumble as “that would be disastrous from a health and sanitation angle” he says.
Kishor takes pride in his work and is always ready for anything that the work day brings. His dedication has brought him appreciation and some additional work as he also provides Swach’s composting service to a few societies and housekeeping for some others. But without PPE and Ration support he would be more vulnerable than ever to infection putting his baby to risk as well.
Kishor and many families like his need your support in procuring PPE and ration kits for sustenance when many cannot pay the waste pickers and recycling has also come to a standstill. To donate call 9765999500.
*(SWaCH is user fee-based model. Vastis typically comprise low income households and pay a small user fee that is supplemented by the PMC with a subsidy given bi-annually).