After the ruling BJP in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) pushed for the involvement of private agencies in door-to-door waste collection, in a bid to end the monopoly of SWaCH, a cooperative of waste-pickers, SWaCH representatives on Tuesday submitted a memorandum to Mayor Murlidhar Mohol, claiming support from 110 corporators and nearly 33 lakh residents of the city.
“More than 6,62,978 households and establishments, with an approximate population of 33,14,890 citizens, have expressed their satisfaction and support with the continuation of services provided by SWaCH’s waste-pickers,” it stated in the memorandum.
It stated that 110 elected representatives across parties have written to the Mayor and PMC Commissioner, expressing their unequivocal support for the continuation of the waste-pickers’ SWaCH Cooperative instead of the proposed introduction of private contractors.
Suman More, chairperson of SwaCH, said, “As many as 110 corporators met our waste- pickers and shared their support in writing, stating that they want the SWaCH Cooperative to continue its services in their area and do not support a private contractor. Citizens have not only supported each one of us but also our cooperative set-up. In the face of this, we are unable to understand who is unhappy with our services. We understand the brunt of unfair practices of private contractors and we will always oppose such oppressive systems”.
The PMC Standing Committee has given an extension of one month to SWaCH to continue its work till a new agency is appointed for door-to-door waste collection.
“We are not against SWaCH. It covers 70 per cent of houses in the city. We want door-to- door waste collection for 100 per cent houses. Thus, the new agencies would be roped in to achieve the target,” said Hemant Rasane, chairperson of the standing committee.
He further said that many corporators have been complaining of the service provided by SWaCH. “The SWaCH work would be continued in areas where the local corporators want to continue with the ongoing service of waste collection,” Rasane said.
According to SWaCH, most citizens and elected representatives have marked their preference for the existing model jointly established by the PMC and the waste-pickers of the Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat.
Vidya Naiknaware, board member of SwaCH, said, “We, the waste pickers of Pune, have worked really hard for the last 14 years to form our own cooperative and faced numerous challenges every day to solve the problems of waste in the city. We have ensured segregation. We have assisted in removing over 500 mixed waste containers. We are sure that people of Pune would never allow the privatisation of our rights and livelihoods”.
“We hope that the PMC will support and evolve Pune’s longest standing sustainable waste management system by addressing the critical systemic issues. Private contractors would compromise the rights of waste pickers and eventually the sustainable waste collection system of Pune, and the waste-pickers of Pune will oppose it vehemently.” said Rani Shivsharan, a waste-picker from Hadapsar.