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SWaCH gains national fame on Aamir’s show, yet to find local support

It is struggling to sustain as PMC has failed to clear Rs 2.5-crore dues in past five years.

Pune |
Updated: March 17, 2014 8:20:32 am
SWaCH which keeps Pune city clean by collecting tonnes of waste daily — gained national fame when its work was highlighted in Aamir Khan’s reality TV show Satyamev Jayate. (PTI) SWaCH which keeps Pune city clean by collecting tonnes of waste daily — gained national fame when its work was highlighted in Aamir Khan’s reality TV show Satyamev Jayate. (PTI)

City based workers’ cooperative, SWaCH (Solid Waste Collection and Handling) — which keeps Pune city clean by collecting tonnes of waste daily — gained national fame on Sunday when its work was highlighted in Aamir Khan’s reality TV show Satyamev Jayate.

However, the irony is that locally the organisation is not getting the support it needs to keep going — especially from the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC).

The civic body, which failed to clear dues worth Rs 2.5 crore for the past five years towards SWaCH, has after the show shown interest in reaching out to the “service providers”.

“It is a fact that SWaCH has been doing tremendous work of keeping the city clean. I will find out what has led to the stoppage of payment of Rs 2.5 crore to SWaCH,” said Municipal Commissioner Vikas Deshmukh.

Asked if he would take the initiative to push the movement by first clearing the dues, Deshmukh said he will do whatever can be done.

Working under the aegis of Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchyat (KKPKP), SWaCH’s 2,300 women volunteers collect waste from four lakh households in Pune daily. The production unit of Satyamev Jayate started its research a long time ago and also visited the city a couple of times to study how SWaCH works. The team had written to many civic bodies across the country and found SWaCH’s work more significant than any other group.

Those who run SWACH conceded that their model could not have worked without the support of PMC, but said the civic body has not supported the movement the way it should have.

“SWaCH model could not have worked without PMC support as the very conception involved a collaborative approach between the waste-picker organisation and the civic body. Several civic officials played a significant role in setting up and sustaining the model,” said Laxmi Narayan, general secretary, KKPKP.

However, Narayan said the PMC has not cleared dues of Rs 2.5 crore for the past five years. “This amount relates to overheads as well as certain key provisions, like welfare benefits, that were earmarked for waste-pickers directly. This has created financial pressure on SWaCH as well as insecurity among waste-pickers as they have not received what was owed to them,” said Narayan. As a result, SWaCH had to remove 30 of its key staffers to maintain “organisational sustainability”.

Besides, PMC had signed an MoU with SWaCH for providing buckets, gloves and other safety equipment. “The newer ones were to be provided every two years, but PMC has failed to replace them in five years. Because of this, the waste-pickers have to get their equipment repaired and pay from their pockets,” said Narayan, adding that SWaCH has given dignity and recognition to waste-pickers, who are now known as service providers.

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