'Saamuhika Shakti' programme launched in Bengaluru

Multi-year project 'Saamuhika Shakti' launched to improve lives of waste workers in Bengaluru

Sweden-based H&M Foundation commits $11 million for the project

A rag picker works on the streets of Bengaluru during the Covid-19 lockdown. Credit: DH file photo/B H Shivakumar.

Most people in Bengaluru do not see or recognise the informal sector such as rag pickers in managing the city’s waste, though they are concerned about waste management. Informal workers are harassed, discriminated and stigmatised because of their appearance, and forcing them to become even more invisible.

These were the highlights of a study by BBC Media Action on informal waste pickers in Bengaluru highlighted these aspects, revealed on Monday, at the launch of 'Saamuhika Shakti', a multi-year project that aims to improve the lives of informal waste workers in Bengaluru.

BBC Media Action, CARE, Hasiru Dala, LabourNet, Save the Children, Social Alpha, WaterAid, along with The/Nudge Foundation are joining forces to focus on improving income levels, social security, working conditions, education, sanitation, and recognition for the critical role waste pickers play in managing waste in cities.

The project is funded by Sweden-based H&M Foundation and follows the model where different groups commit to a cause and work together in a structured manner for a common agenda, to solve a specific social problem at scale. H&M Foundation has committed $11 million for the first three years of the project, with scope for expanding it by three additional years.

Speaking at the virtual programme, Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner Manjunath Prasad detailed the challenges the BBMP faces in managing waste and the role of waste workers.

BBMP Special Commissioner for Solid Waste Management and Health Randeep Dev said there will be a large network of dry waste collection in Bengaluru soon, which will be largely run by waste pickers and NGOs. BBMP will assist with required technology and infrastructure, he added.

“In six to eight years, waste pickers will not be picking waste on the streets in the way that they do today. Children of waste pickers will have the opportunity to choose their livelihoods," said Nalini Shekhar, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Hasiru Dala, a Bengaluru-based NGO working with waste pickers to better their lives. She hoped for the project to accelerate this process.

Maria Bystedt, Strategy Lead, H&M Foundation said that the Foundation hopes to bring together various partners to work towards the same goal to create long-term positive changes.

“Through Saamuhika Shakti, we hope to provide prospects that can lead to better outcomes, and in an equitable manner for waste pickers and their families,” said Lakshmi Pattabi Raman, Executive Director of Saamuhika Shakti, The/Nudge Foundation.