May 24, 2021 8:26:32 pm
Waste pickers have decided to stage a protest against the PMC, after the civic body shied away from signing a formal long-term agreement with SWaCH. The PMC has, once again, given only a month’s extension to the waste pickers and proposed a contract system for waste collection.
“The waste pickers, who are members of SWaCH, are organising protests as the PMC has proposed to contractualise their livelihoods after false promises to protect their rights,” read a statement by SWaCH.
The statement also read that temporary extensions to the SWaCH agreement amid continuing discussions of contract system indicates the PMC’s apathetic attitude towards the contribution of 3,500 waste pickers over the past 14 years. “Waste pickers are protesting against the PMC’s hypocrisy by wearing black bands to work from tomorrow (May 25). Once Covid restrictions are relaxed, they will intensify their protest in a constitutional and Covid-appropriate manner till their voices are heard and issues resolved,” read the statement.
“If the support from over 30 lakh citizens and 115 corporators doesn’t underline the success of our work, then we don’t understand what exactly the PMC expects from the waste management of Pune,” said Vidya Naiknaware, a waste picker from Dhankawadi.
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According to the statement by SWaCH, the civic body’s waste management was held together by the “sweat and labour” of SWaCH waste pickers for the past 14 years. They had built the only progressive primary collection system in the solid waste management of the city and, instead of rooting for it, looking for expensive, contractual, low-accountability options would disrupt the entire waste management of Pune.
“Discussions to contractualise our livelihoods have gained significant momentum, but we have still not got the promised incentive allowance during the first wave of Covid, life insurance, PPE, essential equipment like pushcarts, buckets. This is infuriating. We lost our sisters to Covid, yet we continued working. Does the PMC have an iota of commitment towards valuing waste pickers’ efforts?” asked Rani Shivsharan, another waste picker from Hadapsar.
“Recognising their commitment towards citizens, waste pickers will continue their work to protect the city’s health. However, they will wear black bands to work and ask for support and solidarity from citizens,” said Harshad Barde, director of SWaCH.
In the past, the PMC has signed an agreement with SWaCh for five years but has not done so this time.
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