TO mark the second anniversary of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Ministry of Urban Development and the Ministry of Water and Sanitation organised an event to felicitate “exemplary commitment” towards the goals of the campaign and Pune NGO SWaCH, a collective of wastepickers, was honoured with the Indo-San 2016 award from urban development ministry.
With over 2,700 wastepickers servicing over 5,00,000 homes in a one-of-a-kind collaboration, SWaCH members have worked hard to keep the city waste out of landfills and have enabled a 20 per cent rise in recyclables that would otherwise have landed up at the landfills.
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SWaCH Pune Seva Sahakari Sanstha, India’s first cooperative of wastepickers, was felicitated along with the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) for mainstreaming ragpickers into solid waste management. Mangal Pagare and Rajabai Sawant received the award on behalf of SWaCH along with a 10-person delegation of the PMC.
Over 100 representatives of SWaCH gathered at Bhawani Peth cheered the award. “It is very good news for us and wastepickers across the country that our work is being recognized. However, these awards also need to translate into actual gains for wastepickers across the country — we have to be integrated into all waste management systems, our health and other rights need to be protected and (we should) have right over recyclables,” said Mangal Jadhav, a wastepicker from Shivajinagar.
“We welcome the award and the recognition that comes with it. Despite the good news, not all challenges have been surmounted. An award is often a call to introspect and there are several issues that wastepickers grapple with before we can sit back and accept the accolades. On the ground however, everything is a struggle. Wastepickers have not received their dues for collecting waste from slums, money due to SWaCH has still not come in, there are a number of tempos that have started collecting waste without wastepickers, rain coats arrived well after the monsoon. We hope the award changes the situation,” said Aparna Susarla from SWaCH.