Waste pickers working under contractors of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation handed over a cheque of Rs 1 lakh for the Chief Ministers Relief Fund to Dr Neelam Gorhe, deputy speaker of the state legislative council on Tuesday.
The occasion was an “Anand Sohala” to celebrate the monthly wage increase of Rs.5000 that each worker received from the PCMC following a protracted battle for implementing the 2015 Maharashtra Government order for payment of revised minimum wages as per local body wage rates. Also present at the program were Mayor Usha Dhore and veteran labour activist Dr. Baba Adhav.
The mayor expressed admiration towards all the waste pickers for their decision to contribute to relief efforts for the flood-affected. “The Rs 1 lakh donated is like one crore because it is coming from the poorest and the marginalised. I cannot stress this enough and deeply appreciate the dedication of waste pickers,” she said.
A board member of the union said, “The last two years have been brutal for us as the responsibility of ensuring rations in the house always falls on women. We hope this donation helps some women in their difficult times.”
Shital Giramkar, a waste picker said, “We are happy that our wages have increased. But what about itinerant workers, those who collect waste from the roadsides and landfills? They are older, much more vulnerable. The PCMC must find a way to integrate them into the SWM system and allow them access to the dry waste which is all filling up at Moshi, as well as ensure they get access to social security like rations, pensions, etc.”
Vijaya Chavan, another waste picker, asked, “We have been told that we will be paid arrears for work from 1st January 2020. But what about our work before that? The PCMC owes us money from 2015! If the PCMC, a government body, takes minimum wage laws lightly and does not strive for their implementation, what can we expect from the private sector?”
Speaking at the event, Dr Baba Adhav said, “I am proud of the way waste pickers have pursued their demands, it is a big win indeed. I urge Smt Gorhe and Smt Dhore to look at the waste picker-led models of waste collection like SWaCH to consider it for PCMC as well”.
Gorhe promised to address all the issues raised by the speakers including spaces for waste pickers, raising issues with PMC and PCMC to ensure waste pickers get the central, state and city level entitlements they deserve. “I will address the issues faced by SWaCH waste pickers in PMC and those faced by PCMC waste pickers on contractual wages,” Gorhe said.
senior activist of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat said: “The movement of waste pickers has come a long way. It extends beyond the demands for increase in economic status those of the right to dignity. While we celebrate the victory, we will continue to fight for the inclusion and integration of waste pickers into solid waste management systems of the Corporation.”