How waste pickers protect the health of the city despite all odds.
Shanta Nana Shendge has spent most of her lifetime working in waste recycling and earning a living from it. However, for the first time, she is unable to earn a living. “Waste picking, sorting and recycling is not easy work but it paid for our daily needs and kept food on the table. I have never seen anything like this and there is nothing to be done. I don’t know how we and people like us will survive” she says.
The Corona Virus pandemic has disrupted life everywhere and while most are worried about how to get food, they can at least pay for it if it is available. For waste pickers who are dependent on waste recycling everyday have no money to pay for their daily needs. Sorting waste could be a health hazard and the scrap dealers are also shut for business leaving no options for waste pickers.
“Another issue is that we collect slum waste but those residing there are also without work right now, so our user fees are the last priority. After completing a month’s work sincerely we still have no hope of being paid for it” says Shanta. SWaCH coordinators have been trying to request people to pay but to no avail.
“With shops and hotels also closed down, we have a slightly lighter load rom these places, but it also means that we have to wait to be paid our regular fees till they open for business. Home owners have also locked up their homes and gone elsewhere in some cases and we do not know when they will be back. What do we do till then?” asks Suman Devidas Jadhav who services some commercial establishments, along with homes.
Some members of SWaCH have been asked to collect waste from the gate or a central place so that they do not have to go from door to door for collection. In some places, there were some disruptions initially as it was difficult for members to reach due to the lack of transportation. Even now, despite the letters from SWaCH and the identity cards etc, many cannot get fuel easily to reach their place of work.
SWaCH has been training and informing members on best practices and provide PPE to the members to enable safety during work. Citizens are being asked to also segregate and those in Self Quarantine are being serviced by the PMC directly to reduce risk to the waste pickers as well as stem the spread of Corona Virus. Access to water taps for hand washing being requested at places of work and sanitizers being provided for safety.
“A little compassion from everyone will go a long way,” says Suman More, chairperson of the board of SWaCH. “We can fight this battle only if we are supported by the citizens. No battle was ever won on a hungry stomach and we hope we do not have to do so either”.
To make contributions of support to SWaCH waste pickers you can call 9765999500 or visit the website www.swachcoop.com for the link.