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At Singhu and Tikri: Swathes of solid waste at protest sites, civic workers and ragpickers have their hands full

Every day, thousands of disposable plates, glasses and plastic water bottles are used and thrown away at both sites where sewa through serving food in langar has become a persistent image of the protest.

Written by Sukrita Baruah , Ashna Butani | New Delhi | Updated: December 22, 2020 8:20:52 am
Farmers protest site, solid waste at protest sites, Singhu border, Tikri border, Delhi news, Indian express newsRagpickers pick bottles and other waste from the Singhu protest site. (Photo: Abhinav Saha)

With tens of thousands of people occupying Delhi’s borders with Haryana at Singhu and Tikri and with food being distributed round-the-clock at both sites, another round-the-clock task is the disposal of solid waste.

Every day, thousands of disposable plates, glasses and plastic water bottles are used and thrown away at both sites where sewa through serving food in langar has become a persistent image of the protest. Also generated are large quantities of peels, packets, and other waste from food preparation. While farmers, langar organisers, Haryana municipal organisers, volunteers and local ragpickers are involved in efforts to dispose of the massive quantities of solid waste, it remains a visible problem at both sites — strewn across roads and thrown into drains.

On Monday, Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal from Punjab’s Moga was supervising a langar at Singhu border, which has been serving a few hundred people food every day. They have created an enclosure with ropes around their cooking and serving area, and hang 3-4 garbage disposal bags from these. “We provide these bags but these get filled really quickly and then people start throwing used plates on the road… I’m not sure who but some people come and clear away the bags and the piled-up waste every day. Apart from this, ragpickers who live nearby come and collect plastic bottles,” he said.

At Tikri border, almost every group of farmers is equipped with a broom and a plastic bag. While a few langar organisers have set up dustbins, these are not enough. Sanjeev Kumar (42), a petrol pump sanitation worker, is now tasked with cleaning the area in front of the pump, where many langars have been set up: “Earlier, I would sweep around 5-6 kg of waste to one corner of the petrol pump, till the Nagar Parishad truck came in. Since the protests started, I sweep aside 80-90 kg of waste. Once I have done this, sanitation workers come and do the needful.”

Municipal sanitation workers ply through both sides multiple times a day. “We have a 100 square foot trolley-truck in which we collect waste. Our shift is from 8 am to 5 pm and during that time, we go up and down the entire stretch of the protest five times, disposing the waste at a collection centre in Kundli village after each round,” said Deepak, the driver of one of two such Kundli Nagar Palika trolley-trucks collecting waste at Singhu border. He admitted this was not enough to keep up with the volume of waste produced at the site.

The Sonipat Nagar Nigam has more waste collection resources at Singhu border. “Our trolley has a capacity of about 1.5 tonnes, and there is another such trolley operating in this same shift. We take around 11 rounds of the site during one shift and dump the waste at a site close to the border. Another two trolleys come in the evening shift, they make even more rounds. At midnight, 5-6 large trolleys arrive and carry away this waste to our main dumping ground in Murthal,” said Shashi, supervisor of one team from the Nagar Nigam.

At Tikri, five trucks from the Bahadurgarh Nagar Parishad take rounds of the site. Around 55 workers sweep the waste, pack it in bags, and load them onto trucks. Suraj Mal (37), a truck driver, said he used to take two rounds of the road earlier, but now takes five every day: “After this, we dispose of the waste in a godown in Bahadurgarh around 5 km from the site.”

They estimated that each truck deals with 400 kg of waste in a day. Another five trucks come in for the night shift.

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