It's a ragbag of plans

waste segregation

It's a ragbag of plans

They are called ragpickers but they live in an age where waste could be converted into wealth thanks to recycling. No wonder they are a vital cog in the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike’s (BBMP) scheme of things for solid waste management.

The BBMP has decided to cash in on the fact thatragpickers can segregate waste better than anybody else. At least they are familiar with picking dry waste and one doesn’t have to train them in that aspect. The BBMP is currently seeking the help of 150 rag-pickers just to pick dry waste, which will be handed over to various NGOs for processing purposes. 

Talking about the whole concept, M Lakshminarayana, Commissioner, BBMP, says, “The ragpickers belong to the unorganised sector. We are trying to train them and organise them with regards to collecting dry waste. They will be paid a sum of Rs 6000 per month and given a bicycle to move from one place to the other. We have also tied up with a few NGOs for the same.”   

The ragpickers or waste pickers as they are called, confess that their job is no easy task. They say that they either get into it because of poverty or since their parents are in the same line. 

   Kanakamma, a 74-year-old ragpicker, began picking waste when she was barely 14 years old. 

“My parents died when I was young and I got into this because of my grandmother, who was a waste picker. Back then, I used to make Rs 50 a day but now, I make anything between Rs 100 and Rs 250 a day depending on how much load I am able to pick and carry,” she says. 

Kanakamma met with an accident a few months ago and says that this has made her slightly immobile. “Now I can’t move around much. I don’t know what it is like to live a pain-free life. I have suffered enough and am continuing to suffer. But I have to keep going because I have to make ends meet,” she adds.     

The story of Francis is no different. He started picking waste when he was 20 years old. “We have to walk through dust and dirt to collect plastic, paper and bottles. There are times when my legs have become sore from excess walking but since I manage to make Rs 300 a day, I don’t want to give it up,” he states. 

He now collects waste exclusively for the BBMP waste centres. “We belong to an unorganised, unregulated sector. Due to this programme, we have identity cards and the collection is more organised,” adds Francis.  Hasirudala, an NGO that is active in solid waste management, has joined hands with the BBMP to set up 29 dry waste collection centres across the City. It has chosen ragpickers to man each of the centres and appointed many more waste collectors to deposit dry waste to the centres on a regular basis. 

Mary, a former waste collector who manages the dry waste centre in Nandini Layout, says, “Earlier, I had to walk really far and work long hours. I would make just about enough to feed my three children. But now, I get at least Rs 800 a day and it’s like working in a regular office job. I am relieved,” she states.  

Ambika, another former waste collector who mans a dry waste centre in Malleswaram, says, “Earlier, my legs would ache and I would not be able to sleep all night. There are times when we have been harassed by the cops. We now work at the waste centre and this has changed our lives,” she says. 

Nalini Shekar, the co-founder of Hasirudala, sums up, “We manage the operations of all these centres. This is except the ‘branded litter’, which includes the multiple layers of plastic that come out of branded products like Lays. We have managed to collect other dry waste and process it. This has been one of our most successful waste management projects.” 

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